— submitted by Mark Forsythe
“Get involved with your local heritage organizations— and tell the stories that are all around us.” Surrey Historical Society president (and BCHF council member) Michael Gibbs made this impassioned plea to people attending the official opening of a new park in Surrey.
Once an overgrown, vacant lot, the patch of land at 64th Avenue and 181a St belonged to the Scott family one hundred years ago. Originally from Texas, Henry Houston Scott was born a slave in the US. He arrived in Cloverdale with his wife and 3 youngest children to begin a new life in 1912. Today their former 7 acre farm is mostly a subdivision and power line right-of-way, but a small patch of land with some of the family’s original fruit trees has been cleaned up and was officially declared Henry Houston Scott Park on April 16th.
Henry was born a slave in 1854 in Fannin County, Texas. It wasn’t until 1865 that slavery was finally abolished under the 13th amendment. After trying to homestead in Oklahoma, the Scotts were drawn to the fertile lands of the Fraser Valley; they grew hay and later farmed dairy cattle. There wasn’t even a road to the farm, just a rough trail through the forest down to the Pacific Highway.
After Henry and his wife died in 1934 their youngest son Jesse continued to work the farm and was a professional baseball player with the IOCO (Imperial Oil) senior baseball team. Another son, Roy, worked at a lumber mill and as a porter on the CPR. The youngest member of the family, Benola Myrtle, was a noted singer who died in 1971 and rests with her family in what were formerly unmarked graves.
Last year the Surrey Historical Society placed a headstone with all their names at the family plot in Surrey Centre Cemetery.
The Society also took the lead in researching the family’s story, surveying the land, and convincing the City of Surrey to turn the empty lot into a park which now connects with a trail system. Mission accomplished. Apple, cherry and pear blossoms were all bursting as Michael Gibbs and fellow Surrey Historical Society members Roger Bose and Jim Foulkes led the dedication ceremony. Jim often drives past the old farm site, “In spring, the blossoms of their old orchard tell of the endeavours of the Scott family to build a new life in Canada.”