Surrey is a city rich in heritage, and pays homage many important people and places, by weaving them right into its infrastructure. If you’ve ever wondered about the name of a street or neighbourhood, a quick Google search pulls on the thread of Surrey’s founding and developing years. Surrey’s story begins long before it officially became a city in 1993, and one of the first chapters is set in Elgin.
Elgin, known today as the area North East of Crescent Beach, South East of Mud Bay Park, and home to Nico Wynd Golf Course, was one of the earliest centers of Surrey to develop. Around 1860 is when Elgin begins popping up in history books as an important region. In 1880, Elgin was even designated as a Canada Customs entry point, but how exactly did Elgin become such a prominent spot on the map?
Early pioneers had built a road between Semiahmoo Bay and Brownsville, creating the only route on land to travel from Blaine to New Westminster. In 1872, Elgin became the first commercial logging operation of the region, thanks to its close proximity to the Nicomekl River and the Semiahmoo Wagon Road. Elgin was a stage stop on the pioneer road, and a hotel with six rooms was built to accommodate travellers, complete with a barn, a blacksmith shop, a county store, and even post office service. The hotel closed following the New Westminster Southern Railway in 1891, which bypassed the Elgin area, but by this time the area had already been deemed home to many.
With the creation of the pioneer roads, and logging businesses, families and pioneers began to settle in Elgin. Pioneer homes began as simple log cabins, and eventually evolved into elegant Victorian farm homes. While the first structure to be built in the area was the hotel in 1870, the first community Hall was built in 1878, which was lovingly referred to as ‘Misery Hall’ because at low tide, patrons had to climb over a muddy dyke just to reach it!
There are a few reminders of the origins of Elgin and its first pioneers. The Historic Stewart Farm, The Daniel Johnson House, Elgin Hall, and the Elgin Centre School are structures from the pioneer days that have been maintained, and still stand today. You can even tour the Historic Stewart Farm and learn all about pioneer life (more info here)!
** Photo credit: The Surrey Archives, taken est. 1894.