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The Henry Tompson and John Tompson Families.

This history is based on photos and information by Ellen Edwards(nee Tompson), an article written for the BC Genealogist by June Gauntley(nee Tompson), and a Surrey Archives presentation by Ryan Gallagher titled Pioneer Profiles of Surrey.

The Tompson Family History

The Tompson Family had a background in the Church of England. Henry Tompson was the son, grandson and great grandson of vicars from the Church of England. Their families always lived in grand houses with gardens, in villages from Derbyshire to Staffordshire, Shropshire and Wales. The family is connected in the 1600's to the Moretons of Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire.

Henry Metcalfe Tompson

Henry Metcalfe Tompson was born in 1876 in the vicarage at Mochdre, Montgomeryshire, in Wales, where his English father was a vicar. His mother died when he was four years old. He came from a long line of Church of England ministers, and, as the eldest son, was expected to follow in his father's footsteps. He attended Jesus College at Cambridge University, but after his second year he made the mistake of telling his father he didn't want to be a Vicar. His father "threw him out of the university". Henry worked in Liverpool at the post office to make his passage, and immigrated to Canada at 21 years of age on the "Sardinian", leaving Liverpool on September 10, 1896, and arriving in Montreal on October 12. He then made his way to the west coast.
The British Columbia Genealogist Volume 40, No. 2, June 2011

When he first arrived in BC the first problem was getting employment. Mining was big in those days, and it was suggested that he try mining at Granite Creek, just outside Princeton. In 1898 he is listed on the BC Voters List as a "miner" at Granite Creek. Obviously this was not the job for him – a physically small man, not used to labouring, but at home with books and learning! He had very beautiful script writing. Shortly thereafter he was working at the Princeton Post Office. He studied the Chinook Jargon, which had been put into a Dictionary by T.N. Hibben & Co., Victoria. Henry used it to better communicate with the natives in the Princeton area when he worked in the Post Office there.
The British Columbia Genealogist Volume 40, No. 2, June 2011.

Henry Metcalfe Tompson Marriage announcement Nellie Tompson

By December 15, 1899, Henry Tompson was employed by the Vancouver Post Office, where he worked until about 1923. He met Ellen (Nellie) Bloomfield there, who was working as a clerk, and married her in the early St. James Anglican Church in downtown Vancouver in October 1904. Nellie was the daughter of Henry and Emily Bloomfield, of Henry Bloomfield and Sons, the locally famous stained glass artists. The Bloomfields had emigrated to Canada from Maidenhead, Berkshire, England, in 1887.

The Bloomfields were from Ipswich in Suffolk originally, but most of their ten children were born in Maidenhead, Berkshire. Five of their children came with them to Canada: Edgar, an early Vancouver lawyer; Kate who married and moved to California; James, the stained glass designer/artist who took training in Manchester and returned to Vancouver for a time working with Rattenbury and MacLure providing stained glass windows within their fine architecture until he moved to Ontario; and Charles, the one who understood the mechanics of the whole process, and after James left, Charles took on simpler leaded glass contracts; and Nellie, the second youngest child. He also invented pipe organ improvements, and was intrigued with logistics and physics.

Bloomfield Glass, Sailing

The Bloomfield family was known for the artistic stained glass windows that decorated many homes and government buildings in Victoria and Vancouver.

Their first home was at Royal Avenue and 8th Street in New Westminster. The 1898 fire destroyed their house, and the lead melted from their studio, and ran in rivulets down the 8th Street hill. Grandmother Emily had her family push her piano across the wide Royal Avenue, along with some other belongings, but everything else from the home was lost, including portraits and items buried quickly in the back garden. It was most devastating for Emily.

Charles Bloomfield was one of the first people with a camera in New Westminster, and took photos of the fire, looking up Columbia Street. The Bloomfields immediately found a home at the corner of Columbia and 10th Avenue in Vancouver. Their house still stands facing 10th Avenue, and their glass studio building on Columbia, is now a private residence. Some stained glass windows have survived. An architect presently lives there who honours the history and heritage of the house and the clever family that lived there.

Tompson home in Kitsalino

Tompson home 1895

In 1903–1904, Henry Tompson had large house in Kitsilano, built at the corner of York and Vine, and his four daughters and one son were born there. Unfortunately this Kitsilano house was demolished years ago and there is an apartment building in its place. There are many photographs which show Henry working on the property, with a view clear down to the beach with no houses in between. He forged a trail from his house through the thick brush to the beach. Apparently his wife was quite upset when one lone house was built close to the beach. She said it "spoiled her view". The British Columbia Genealogist Volume 40, No. 2, June 2011

The Henry Tompson Family lived in Vancouver from 1898 until 1919 and Henry worked at the Vancouver Post office for 25 years. It appears that he was expecting a promotion to "Postmaster". When he was bypassed in favour of another man he quit his job impetuously. He turned to his father–in–law and partnered with him in financing the stained glass windows business by putting up his Kitsilano home as collateral. Unfortunately, during the stock market crash after WWI people could no longer afford to build grand houses and install beautiful stained glass windows and as a result Henry lost their family home in Kitsilano.

Henry with daughters

Henry Tompson and his three eldest daughters at their summer home in Port Kells. This picture was taken in 1911. This was the home the Tompsons moved to when they lost their home in Kitsilano.

They moved to their summer home in Port Kells (Edenholme Road), and then to Clover Valley and then to Woodward Hill. The eldest daughter Caroline was a teacher at Elgin School for maybe a year. Two of the children, including John Tompson went to Woodward Hill School. John was a super baseball player. (See School Stories: Woodward Hill School)

The family moved again, to a small place in Sullivan, after the 1925 forest fire which swept across the Newton area to Woodward's Hill. It burnt their house down. After that, the mother (Nellie nee Bloomfield) went to live with her daughter Marnie in Vancouver who was working as a secretary. So that he could be granted land that had come available along the Bear Creek, Henry Tompson sat all night by the Land Registry office in New Westminster (by the old Court house on Carnarvon Street). The previous owner did not meet the criteria, likely about clearing a certain amount of land within a couple years.

Application for Bear Creek land

This Department of Interior document gave Henry Tompson title to 20 acres along Bear Creek in Surrey. The land was cleared by his son John, and subsequently he took over the property on the death of his father.

Henry's cabin was built of railway ties from the abandoned King Farris' logging railway close by. The rail bridge, across the Bear Creek, was made of huge logs with sturdy planks was still there when the Tompson Family moved there about 1926. The railway bed provided a trail used for many years by the locals to get to Newton school and stores and the Opera House, and the tram station. When John's daughter Ellen clambered over that bridge, about 1948, only the logs remained, and the trail was covered with hardhack.

Henry and his cow at Bear Creek

Here is Henry Tompson with his cow. He is at the front porch of his cabin on the bank above the Bear Creek in the Green Timbers area. He was an office man, and his son John did most of the farm work at the Bear Creek, right from the age of 12. They had 1 or 2 or 3 cows, and chickens. Henry was in charge of the gardens and the fruit trees. Whatever he did, he always wore a suit and vest, tie and watch. He died in 1943, aged 67, unfortunately before his granddaughters could remember him.

The five children of Henry Tompson and Nell (nee Ellen Bloomfield) were: Emily Caroline (Cara), born 1905; Margaret Ellen (Marnie), born 1907; Marion Alicia, born 1911; Janet Barbara (Barbara), born 1912; John Moreton, born 1914.

Caroline was firstly a teacher and taught at Elgin, then moved to teach at the Mission School in Lillooet where she was well loved by the First Nations girls. Later, she became a nurse, and after that an X-Ray technician. When she retired she lived in a small home in Hope, where she could walk to the shops and to church, and spend much time in her garden.

Marnie was a secretary and very conscientious in taking care of her invalid mother, who, had neuritis. She lived most of her life in Vancouver, as she attended King George Secondary School after being tutored by Mrs. Schou, wife of Judge Schou of Vancouver. Mrs. Schou would take the tram to Kitsilano and later to Port Kells to tutor all five children, until the Tompson family finances were completely depleted, and they had to move to the Cloverdale area and a smaller house. The older girls also had piano lessons by a musician from Vancouver, Mrs. Salmon. Marnie was a very talented pianist. Marnie married a dignified Englishman Bill Witham, who was head porter on Cruise Ships to Alaska. Their home was in the Grandview Highway/Nanaimo part of Vancouver and they had two children.

John and Marion

Marion married young and moved to her husband's large property in Alliance, Alberta. They worked hard on the farm for several years, and John Tompson rode the rails and worked on that farm to earn money to build a fireplace and installed a window at the Bear Creek house, so his mother could come and stay with them. Harold and Ernie Winch built that fireplace.

Marion and Mik Brun had two sons and moved to Winfield, BC, where they operated a successful chicken farm. After they retired from farming, Marion worked at a bank well into her retirement years. Marion, in 2011, is now 100 years old and lives in a Care Home close to the old family house, where her granddaughter now lives.

Barbara has always been an artist, a creative thinker and reader, and lover of cats. She also played and taught piano to children in her community. She married Ralph Nevill, son of Benjamin Nevill who had one of the early stores in Port Kells. Ralph was the head electrician for BC Sugar in Vancouver. Their son is also named Ralph, the name given to sons throughout the powerful Nevill Family history in UK. Barbara painted flowerpots, and plaques with scenes of Virginia that she loved. She used impressionistic designs similar to Matisse and Chagall, for her brightly–coloured wall hangings. She was known by everyone on Salt Spring Island c1990s for her active participation in protests over logging near Maxwell Lake, and even was arrested for blocking logging trucks and had to go to court when she was well into her 80s. She was a very colourful character.

John Moreton Tompson

John Tompson John Tompson

John was the youngest of the five children. He was 12 when they moved to the Bear Creek property, and he immediately started clearing the land of stumps left from the extensive logging work done all over Surrey, including the precious Green Timbers. Over the years he built fences, a chicken house, a barn, a water wheel, for power to their buildings, and for his wood lathe. He slept in the barn when his sisters and mother came to visit. He was one hard worker.

School report School report

John went to Cloverdale Elementary, Woodward's Hill Elementary, Newton School and then Surrey High School. He went to Vancouver Technical School for his trades training. He live with his sister and mother in Vancouver as he attended Vancouver Tech. Very mechanically minded, he learned machine work easily, and enjoyed the challenges of machine lathe work all his life. A lifelong machinist by passion John had amazing ability to work with steel and to come up with solutions to difficult and seemingly impossible problems. To him it came easy. He was never as happy as when confronted with a challenge.

John and Henry with the banjo John and Henry as young men 70 years as friends

During the summers of his teenage years, with his best friend, Harry Baker, he even made his own ice skates and his own banjo. They played their banjos whenever they visited each other, all their lives!

In his early working days, he worked at Fallowfield's farm in Kensington Prairie. One of his jobs was to keep the logging ditch clear. That ditch is still there today between 168th and 164th on 32nd Avenue. As a millwright at BC Packers in Kelowna, where he met his wife. In the war years he became a machinist at Vancouver Shipyards, and later operated a small sawmill fabricating fish floats for fishermen's nets, and vegetable crates for the early market gardeners.

When John's father Henry died, he purchased his sisters' shares for the twenty acre property at Archibald Road and the Bear Creek and built his own house. He lived there with his family until 1958. Through the years, he always kept cows for milk, chickens for eggs, and pastures for grazing.

John and his apple harvest John and his cat

John did not go to war, although he volunteered and was graded A1. Anyone who had cows and shipped milk was required to stay on the farm. Later, as a machinist working in the shipyards he was exempt. John would pick up several men along the route to Hamilton Bridge, where they worked as machinists building ships.

John and Dorothy John and Dorothy 2002

John and Dorothy were married for 64 years when John died in 2003, aged 89. She lived another 4 years until 2007, aged 91. They had 10 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.

John Tompson married Dorothy Kenyon in 1939 in Kelowna where Dorothy was living with her Aunt and they all worked at the BC Cannery there in the summer. John had gone up to Kelowna with his sister Barbara to find work at the cannery. They camped along the way, and after several car breakdowns, made it to BC Packers, and both found work; Barbara in the office. John went around to the back, where men were digging a drainage channel, and saw a shovel. He picked it up and started digging and the supervisor liked what he saw, a strong young man, digging faster than anyone else. Never mind, that he had not applied the usual way. He got the job. A few days later the tomato juice machine broke down. Disaster! The news got out to the men at the back and John said, "If you let me work in the cannery all night, and give me access to tools, I should be able to fix it. And if I do, please let me stay in the mechanics department." They agreed. By morning, the tomato machine was working, and Johnny became the cannery millwright right then! He stayed for that season, married a girl in the apple peeling section (whose machine seemed to be always needing attention), and moved with Dorothy back to Bear Creek. It was very crowded in the little cabin with Henry, so Johnny built a small garage with a veranda, which became their first home. During the next two years, he built a two storey house over a basement, and when his second daughter was born, the family moved in! That was 1942.

Dorothy Kenyon Dorothy and baby June Dorthy Tompson

Home in Bear Creek

Archibald Road Home 1958 sketch of home House at Bear Creek

The Surrey house was 505 Archibald Road, later 7987–144th Street. The driveway was Hunt Road (80 Ave).

The first two children were Ellen and June and they lived in the house by the Bear Creek and recall when it was moved up to the Archibald Road. The house was pulled onto huge logs by a bulldozer, and pulled along the field. When the house moved off the rear log, it would be rolled back up front. It took a crew of three or four to keep the move going. The hard part was moving it up the hill to sit exactly right over the recently cemented basement.

The family then grew to include Sandy (born 1947) and Diane (born 1951)

The family drove to Cloverdale to a Church on Main Street, which is now 177B, close to the Museum.

John drove a few Model A Fords, then a 1949 Chevy, then a 52 Chevy that his daughter Ellen learned to drive on, then a series of more modern Chevrolets.

All four children attended Green Timbers School. Ellen and June attended the original one room school for Grades one to three, and Sandy and Diane the new school which went up to Grade 6. Ellen and June went to Newton School for their Grades 4 to 6, and then took the school bus to Princess Margaret High School on Bose Road for Grades 7 to 12.

Dr. Sinclair made house calls all during those years, and also visited the schools to give the children annual checks.

There were lots of blackberry bushes, which produced countless jars of preserved fruit and jam. John's wife Dorothy (nee Kenyon) was well experienced in preserving everything possible to last through the winter. She sewed clothes for her four children, baked bread and taught her children to share in the housework and cooking. She and the older daughters also worked at John's business, Bear Creek Box Factory, during the 40's and 50's.

John Tompson was a real family man and everyone loved him. His nephews and nieces, and grandchildren of all ages liked the way he played with them and held them on his knee and played the banjo and made bowls on his lathe.

In the photo John Tompson was looking at his great grandson Johnny Edin, who is the son of Ellen's daughter. Johnny's other Grandpa was John Edin, so young Johnny was well named.

In the 1930's John worked to plant the Green Timbers forest we all enjoy today. He remained active in the Green Timbers Heritage Society, helping preserve the replanted forest.

Walking in Green Timbers In Green Timbers John planting a tree

John Tompson grew up in the Green Timbers in the 1920s, and marvelled at the abilities of the loggers and fallers. However, he was extremely saddened at the loss of the mighty evergreen forest which had been so vast that it was known world–wide and had tourists coming to view it. In the 1930s, along with other young men of the area, he was hired by the Ministry of Forests to plant tree seedlings in the one square mile that was promised in 1930 as a forest in perpetuity. Once it was all planted, it would be left to grow as a forest again. This is known today as Green Timbers Forest.

The Green Timbers Nursery was begun about 1930, and produced millions of seedlings for replanting throughout BC's forests. When they were logged, the regulation was to replant with seedlings. This kept many nursery workers busy during the depression years. When John Tompson's large task of planting the new forest was done, then he planted hedges along the Fraser Highway, and then the small trees. It kept the young men and women working in the 1930s and early 40s, tough years for earning a living. He and his family watched the Green Timbers forest grow from small trees all the same size to the tall trees there today.

When the City of Surrey went ahead and cleared 40 acres in 1985 or 86, the Green Timbers pioneers and past and present neighbours gathered round and formed the Green Timbers Heritage Society (GTHS). Through that Society, the people asked the City for a vote on whether or not to develop the cleared land further. The City wanted to build a stadium, but did organize a referendum. The people said "No"! Since then, the old pioneers and GTHS Members worked hard to restore that 40 acres. They prepared a lake for fishing, and trails for walking, and planted more trees and bushes to fill up that 40 acres.

At present, the area is quite attractive, with many people using the trails, picnicking and fishing by the lake, and using the area for community events. Johnny Tompson was one of those workers cutting trails, clearing out garbage, giving nature walks, and serving on the GTHS Board. He resigned when he was about 80, and his daughter Ellen Edwards has served on the Board since.

Premier VanderZalm at Green Timbers Green Timbers Executive

The photo on the left is of Premier VanderZalm who has just presented the Green Timbers cap by Green Timbers Director, John Tompson.
On the right is the Green Timbers Heritage Society Board Executive in 2007. Duane Duff, Treasurer; Peter Maarsman, President; Ellen Edwards, Secretary; Wady Lehmann, Past President. We are showing how we treasure the large bowl that John Tompson turned on his lathe from cuttings of a large fallen tree from the Inaugural Forest (1930). He made the bowl about the year 2000, aged 86. This bowl was put on display at our special events and treasured by our members.

In between John Tompson's positions at Green Timbers Forest Nursery (30s–40s) and machinist at Durand's Machine Works in New Westminster (1955 to 1985), he operated his own box factory.

Tompson Box Factory Tompson girls at work

Bear Creek Box Factory was across from the Bear Creek Brickyard.

In his old truck, John would pick up trees around Surrey that were cut down, chop off the branches and bring the long trunk home for his big saw, set up over the basement of his house when it was down at the Creek. What a shrill sound was that sawing of the big logs and it went on for hours! John would come up the Hunt Road for supper all covered in sawdust. The smaller pieces of lumber he cut into specific sizes on his buzz saw, run on the engine of a 1923 Model T Ford truck, up by the house, where the nailing of cedar flats and celery crates occurred. He would get many orders from the garden nurseries and the Chinese farmers down on the Colebrook and New McLellan Roads. Wou Dok was the name of one farmer.

On weekends and summers, Dorothy and daughters Ellen and June would do the nailing for him. The pay was 1 cent per crate. They nailed three boards on the bottom of the ladders, 12 nails for the 1 cent. But it added up. Dorothy earned the family piano, and June started lessons right away. Ellen nailed 3000 crates the summer she was 9, and earned her first bicycle, a Raleigh which she has kept all these years, with her siblings and nieces and nephews and daughter all learning to ride on it. June earned a Remington Typewriter one summer. The family was proud of their well–earned possessions.

Tompson girls, 1946 John, Sandford and baby Diane

This hayfield was just below the house and along Archibald Road. The whole field was surrounded by a barbed wire fence. Across the road was Bear Creek Brick Plant, run by Jim and Stuart McBeth, Doris Davidson's brothers. John and Jim McBeth were great friends. John would stoke the kilns during the night, when they doing a long bake, so the brothers could get back to Sullivan to their families

In their rare holiday moments, John and Jim sometimes went fishing. Jim kept his boat at the docks by Stewart Farm. They usually came back with several fish each, a delicacy for supper that night.

Jim also liked hunting, but John didn't. One day, a fine looking buck was grazing in the hay field and Jim saw it from his office at the Brick Plant. John noticed Jim coming out of his office holding a gun. John ran down the field, chasing the deer to the creek. Jim didn't get his deer, and didn't talk to John for a few days, but they got over it.

The move to New Westminster

Home at 321 Pine Home at 321 Pine

The address of the home in New Westminster was 321 Pine Street, Queen's Park. It was bought in 1958 for the appalling amount of $7500, the equivalent of two full years of work.

In 1958, the family moved to New Westminster, as Dorothy, the mother, was so tired of living on a farm without the conveniences of a Saskatchewan prairie village, where she grew up. She wanted to walk to the Library and to the Grocery Store and Post Office herself, instead of having a Library Van come around, instead of having the children bring home the groceries and instead of the roadside mailbox system. In New Westminster, she was able to walk to these places herself.

A fourth daughter Cheri was born in New Westminster in February 1959, the day after the eldest daughter Ellen's 18th birthday! The family was complete. The five children completed their schooling at New Westminster Secondary and then went on to post secondary education.

John and Dorothy's 5 children

The Tompson Family

The Tompson Family, 1983. Sandford, Cheri, John, Diane. Front row: Ellen, Dorothy, June.

Ellen's 48 year career started as a school teacher in Surrey in 1960, and other areas in BC for 12 years, then went on to employment counseling and vocational rehabilitation for the federal government, then coordinated training for the professionals in the vocational rehabilitation sector. She was a teacher on call for several years after her retirement from full time work. She now stays very active as a volunteer with various heritage and seniors groups. Ellen lives in New Westminster.

June always found it easy to find work as she was a stenographer and secretary with record typing speeds! She had an interesting variety of positions in businesses, and settled upon real estate as her longstanding successful career. She was secretary in the MPs office in New Westminster before her retirement. She is an excellent pianist, a creative scrap–booker and has researched online reams of family genealogy. She lives in South Surrey.

Sandford was also a realtor, a notary public, a salesman and distributor of varied products, and a computer expert, dashing to customers between Merritt and Vancouver. He was an avid classic car collector and active in the Merritt Classic Car Club. He died of a sudden heart attack in April 2011. He had a condo in White Rock and a house in Merritt.

Diane was a professional musician and piano teacher, coaching her students through Royal Conservatory exams and recitals. She was active in her churches, leading the choir, playing organ or piano, organizing concerts and events. She died of an invasive cancer in 2003. Her little house was in White Rock.

Cheri excelled in the Landscaping Program at Kwantlen in Surrey. Her favourite interests are gardening and landscaping and candle-making, and she has held several positions in the Surrey and Langley areas.

John moved his family to New Westminster near Queens Park. John was working at Durand's Machine Works in New Westminster, and stayed there until he retired at about age 75. He continued machine work in his own garage, as Durand's gave John his favourite machine lathe as a retirement gift as they were changing over to computer–controls.

Queen's Park spindles John at his lathe Posts for Queen's Park home

John really didn't retire he simply moved his equipment home where he established a fully functional machine shop where he went to "relax" everyday. John turned hundreds of veranda posts and stairway spindles for houses in the Queen's Park area where he lived. He machined parts for old tug boats or old cars, and completed jobs for factories and mills in the area, right to his last year of life, age 88. He was well loved by everyone who knew him. All family members, neighbours, workmates, classic car buddies, church friends, and his children's extended families.

John at his lathe Finished product Finished product

This is John in his element. He managed fine in public, but it was stressful on his shy and humble spirit. His major interest in life was to work in his machine shop. Day and night; summer and Winter. And there was no heat in the workshop. Once retired, he went to his shop every morning, ran into the house for lunch, and ran out again to his lathe. John was known as the man that runs. At church if someone didn't recognize his name, the person would say, "You know, the man that runs!" Then they'd know it was the little guy who ran to his car, and drove over to the church door to pick up his waiting wife. After his gardening and whatever else he felt needed doing that day, back he'd go to the shop. Sometimes neighbours would hear the droning of the lathe and squeal of the grinding late at night.

Model T

John and son Sandy rebuilt this Model T together using hundreds of parts collected over the years. They participated in the New Westminster May Day Parade in 1983.

For fun, John helped restore antique automobiles, worked on the "Master" steam tugboat, many early steam tractors out in Chilliwack for the BC Transportation Museum, and turned "Victorian" posts and railings to assist in the restoration of many homes in the Queens Park area. John Tompson was a humble man, but intelligent. He traveled, and read to learn new things daily. He taught his family to be respectful, to be faithful to their responsibilities, to do their share of the work, to behave well, to be helpful, and to achieve their best. He achieved much. The dash between his years 1914–2003 represents a life filled with memorable achievements.

The riparian area along the Bear Creek has been designated as the John Tompson Park by the City of Surrey. The 20 acres that was Tompson property from 1926 to 1958. About 200 feet on either side are protected from building and development. This gives native trees and plants a chance to grow and animals and birds a place to live. John Tompson Park was named because John was a Green Timbers pioneer, and because he built the only waterwheel known in Surrey on the Creek on his property to provide electricity for his father's house, for the barn, for his workshop, and later for his own house, also built down by the creek.

In 1933, when he was 19 years old, John decided to build a dam across the creek, creating a larger pond. He built a shop before installing the waterwheel. John drove pilings alongside the sluiceway and capped them with big cedar planks. The shop was built on that platform.

When Archibald Road was improved, the farmers moved their houses up to the road, from the trail that used to be the King Farris railway bed. John house was moved up to the Archibald Road on rolling logs, pulled by a bulldozer. June and Ellen sat on a fence watching all that day in 1946. John continued to provide electricity to the house up at Archibald Road, and built power line poles up to the house from the waterwheel.

Ellen and John in Bear Creek Diane and John in Bear Creek

The place in the creek where Ellen and Diane are with John is what is left of the supporting posts for the waterwheel deck. The waterwheel floated down the creek during a very high water level, about 1952, along with the shop and barn, and smashed into the trees and ended up a mixed pile of wood at the corner turning toward the bridge where the sign is now. That was an exceptionally traumatic day for John Tompson.

Good neighbour award

Neighbourhood Award

The year was 2002 and recognized the 50 year's reign of the Queen Elizabeth II. John received a federal award that New Westminster MP Paul Forseth presented.

In the year 2002 John received the Good Neighbour Award. It was the Queens' Jubilee Medal. He was nominated by a community panel for his unsung service to the community, and among other things, his willingness to take on restoration projects for the Heritage House Community of New Westminster, as well as preserving local automobile history, and helping so many with difficult problems where he could use his master machinist skills. His quiet willingness to help others was the admirable trait that was so endearing to me, and I seconded his nomination for the award, which I proposed was to go to individuals who would likely never be publicly recognized in any other manner. E-mail by Paul Forseith, Sept. 2011.

The following selection is taken from the Surrey Historical Society publication, Looking Back At Surrey: A More Rugged Surrey. 1995, pp8–12

The family lived first on the Edenholme Road in Port Kells, and then moved to Cloverdale, renting a small house on Hall's Prairie Road. Johnny started school at Cloverdale, in the little primary school building separate from the main building. His teacher was Miss Florence Clark.
That was in 1923 and Johnny was nine years old. His early school career was spectacular: he completed grade one in a couple of days; grade two in a couple more. He then was moved to grade three, in the main school building.
Tompson had never seen baseball played. That was somewhat of a handicap later, when teams were being picked for the noon hour games of ball. "I was always among the last chosen," he said. However, Johnny had his moment of glory, knocking a home run. He added that probably the reason he made the round trip was that the ball went flying over the fence and the fielders couldn't find it in the rank growth. The Tompson family moved to a house on New McLellan Road a little west of Johnston Road, on the Chicken Wilson property. The Tompson children went to Woodward's Hill School. He recalls that there was the one teacher, teaching eight grades. He thought there were about 20 or 25 pupils attending at Woodward's Hill School at the time
One of his strong memories is of the big bush fire in 1925, when flames swept the hillside. Three houses were burned down, including the Tompson home. The family moved into a small house on Johnston Road, which an uncle rented permanently from the Wade family. The uncle, Edgar Bloomfield, was a Vancouver lawyer. He was an ardent fly fisherman and used the shack on his fishing trips. He would come from the city on the B.C. Electric tram to Sullivan Station, walk almost a mile to the shack, and then walk to favoured fishing spots on the Serpentine or Nicomekl rivers.
The bushfire also destroyed all the hay, but a mild winter followed there were still some grassy areas. Every day John drove the family's two cows out for pasture, then home again after school. When the B.C.E.R. was constructed, a spur line had been built right to Johnston Road. John drove the cows along the old spur line to the dykes along Bose Road. "We had a very soft winter, and there was enough grass to feed them all winter," he stated. The trail went by the Sullivan Shingle Mill and smaller lumber mills. John was very interested in anything mechanical and one day he stopped, enthralled, to watch a couple of mill men casting a Babbitt bearing. He forgot all about the cows. "The cows went up Johnston Road and got into some lady's raspberries, and I got into a lot of trouble."
As a teenager John Tompson worked on the farm of Tom Fallowfield, located at Coast Meridian and Brown roads. While the glory days of logging in Surrey were long gone, there were a number of smaller mills logging and cutting second growth timber on the hillsides.
A feature of Kensington Prairie farmlands was the logging ditch which ran from the foot of the hill south of Brown Road to the Nicomekl River. The logging ditch dates back to the 1880's. It was dug by hand from the foot of the hill south of Brown Road to the Nicomekl River. The work was done by Chinese labour gangs, with many of the workers having been brought to British Columbia for construction work on the Canadian Pacific Railway.(See Logging in South Surrey) The ditch is still in use, as a drainage and irrigation facility. There is now an ARDSA pumping station located on it, at the Nicomekl.
Tom Fallowfield took up his farm in 1882. He had worked in logging the hillside to the south for a couple of years earlier. Hauling the logs down to the logging ditch was done using teams of oxen. The logging ditch ran through the Fallowfield farm, near the barn. The foundations of the lock gates were still visible when John Tompson worked there. He said that the ditch had four locks to provide the necessary "head" of water to float the logs down from the foot of the ridge to the river. "Water for the logging ditch came mostly from a small creek at the foot of the hillside. The lock gate would be closed; the water level gradually rose; then the gate at the lower end of that upper lock would be lifted up. The water and all the logs would go rushing down the ditch to the next lower lock." The logs were made up into booms in the Nicomekl River. Tugs came up the river from Mud Bay, and the booms were towed to the Royal City Mills on the Fraser River near New Westminster.

Bear Creek Days:

After Green Timbers forest was logged in the late 20's it was divided into 20 acre blocks by the Soldier's Settlement Board and the land sold. The Tompson family established at the corner of Hunt and Archibald roads (80th Avenue and 144th Street). Bear Creek runs through this property, and in those days there were some good swimming holes on that stream. "All the kids from the Green Timbers and Newton areas used to come there for swimming," Tompson remembers. "Dad was very good to the kids. He always saw that there was a supply of branches for the fires we had at the swimming hole." They used the creek for domestic water supply. In those years there were no roads, nor power supply, in that part of Surrey. The Tompson's used "coal oil" (kerosene) lamps to light their home.
In 1933, when he was 19 years old, John decided to build a dam across the creek, creating a larger pond. And he was going to build a waterwheel. The dam was about 40 feet long. There was seven feet of water at the end of the diving board. First he had to cut the eight–foot long posts, which braced the dam which took the pressure the pond created. Two rails were added and then two–by–sixes, eight feet long, were driven in to form the wall of the dam. It took him a week of pounding all day, every day, to set those posts in the creek bed. He drove those poles and heavy timbers by hand, using a heavy wooden post maul. "I wasn't very big," the slight Mr .Tompson said, with a grin, "but I was a tough little guy." He left the dam there for two years then decided to go ahead with the waterwheel project.

Water Wheel and Mill Shack

He built a shop before installing the waterwheel. The Tompsons drove pilings alongside the sluiceway and capped them with big cedar planks. The shop was built on that platform. Then came days of cutting, shaping and assembling the parts with which he built the waterwheel. The dam gave him 3–1/2 feet of fall.

Power from the wheel was used to drive a Delco lighting plant, after John had first removed the piston from the Delco engine. "We had lights from this system from 1935 until the B.C. Electric power in 1947". The waterwheel remained on Bear Creek from 1935 to 1952. Power from the wheel also drove a wood lathe, grindstone and table saw. They even used the power to churn butter.
The wheel was mounted on two arms, and was equipped with a hand which it could be raised and lowered in the sluiceway. This arrangement gave excellent control of the speed at which the waterwheel turned. "I don't know what power it gave but with good water conditions we got 3500 RPM on the grinder, lathe or saw." The winch also allowed the wheel to be raised so the salmon could swim up the sluiceway into the pond, prior to the spawning season, in the upper reaches of Bear Creek.

Water Wheel and Mill Shack

The photo is John Tompson (left) and Harry Baker with the waterwheel and shop which Tompson built on Bear Creek. The photo was taken in 1937. The dam provided enough depth for water for boating on Bear Creek.

Boating on Bear Creek

Ellen and Dian boating on Bear Creek

June and Ellen at the dam. Boating on Bear Creek was another benefit of that dam. The family built a small boat and by careful maneuvering around the stream's curves, they could enjoy a "voyage" of about a quarter of a mile.

There still was a fair run of salmon coming up Bear Creek in the mid 1930's. The federal fisheries inspector made an annual tour of the creek bed on foot. He counted the number of returning salmon and also inspected and reported any hazards in the stream bed.
Fortunately, the year we built the dam there were good autumn rains and when the inspector arrived at our place the fish were running and jumping over the dam, into the pond. The fisheries inspector agreed that the pond would add a resting place for the migrating salmon, and we never had any trouble.


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