BCHF News Black History Month: Honouring a former slave family in Surrey

Black History Month: Honouring a former slave family in Surrey

Submitted by the Surrey Historical Society

All that remains of the Scott family farm in the historic Surrey town centre of Cloverdale is a small copse of old fruit trees. The seven acres that Henry Houston Scott and his family farmed have been transformed into a subdivision and power transmission right-of-way. Now the Surrey Historical Society is working to honour this family that ventured north to the Fraser Valley, where they became respected farmers.

This unnamed green space at the corner of 64 Ave and 181A St in Surrey’s Cloverdale is the only visual reminder of the old Scott farmstead. (Photo courtesy of Jim Foulkes)

Henry Scott was born a slave in 1854 in Fannin County, Texas. President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, but it wasn’t until 1865 that slavery was finally abolished under the 13th amendment. Henry met Amy Florence Alridge of Mississippi and in 1905 the couple received a homestead grant in Oklahoma. Census records suggest they eventually had ten children.

The Scotts and three children were drawn to the fertile lands of the Fraser Valley in 1912. There, they grew hay and later farmed dairy cattle along today’s 64th Avenue. After Henry and his wife died in 1934, their youngest son Jesse continued to work the farm; he was also a professional baseball player.

Jesse Scott stands behind the bat boy with his 1923 teammates on the IOCO (Imperial Oil) senior baseball team. (Photo courtesy of the Port Moody Station Museum– Acc. # 2000.018.001)

Another son, Roy, worked at a lumber mill and took a job as a porter on the Canadian Pacific Railway. The youngest child, Benola Myrtle, died in 1971 and rests with her family, all in unmarked graves, at the Surrey Centre Cemetery high above the Serpentine River.

The three Scott siblings who came to Canada did not marry; their story ended with Benola’s passing. But the Surrey Historical Society wants to change that; the group is asking Surrey Parks and the city’s Heritage Committee to turn the small patch of land with fruit trees into Henry Scott Park and to acknowledge the Scotts’ story with a heritage sign. (The land is already designated a park, but is unused and unnamed.) The society also wants to mark the Scott family graves that lie near those of other pioneer Surrey families like Bose, Kells and Boothroyd.

Black History Month seems an auspicious time to move these initiatives forward. Surrey Historical Society board member Jim Foulkes is hopeful, and often drives past the old farm site.

“In spring, the blossoms of the old orchard tell of the endeavours of the Scott family to build a new life in Canada,” says Foulkes.

View a map of the old Scott farmsite as it exists today.