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Sophie Browne and Fred Clark – 70 Years at South Westminster

March 19, 2016

Sophia Theresa Browne, daughter of Owen Wormley Browne and Terese Berabera, was born in 1873 or 1874, depending on the record.

Fred Clark, by his own account, was born at Victoria, about 1870.  Details of his origins are sketchy and conflicting.

According to Clark, as told to Imbert Orchard, his parents were Robert Clark, a Scotsman and Mary Thomas, a First Nations woman. However, news reports from 1870 state that Clark was an Englishman from Shields. And author Marie Elliott, Mayne Island and the Outer Gulf Islands – A History, states, on the evidence of correspondence— that Robert Clarke’s Indian wife was named Annie.

Helen Point - Mayne Island - Plumper Pass

Plumper Pass, now called Active Pass. Helen Point, Mayne Island on right.

Robert Clark was formerly resident in Victoria where he worked as a tinker, fixing pots and pans, before taking up farming at Plumper’s Pass: Mayne Island.

News reports and correspondence reveal that on July 6, 1870, while Mrs Clarke and their three children were away, staying overnight with Mrs Georgeson on Galiano Island, Robert Clarke was killed by a shot in the back and through the chest.

News reports suggested Clarke was killed and his possessions plundered by a man known as “Indian Tom.” Tom was found in possession of Clarke’s stolen goods, was eventually hanged for the crime.

Mrs Clark (Annie or Mary) died three years after her husband, and, in the years following, the young Fred Clark bounced around from place to place, a working man from the age of eight.

Fred Clark boarded for a while with Lewis Dodgson, the first settler on Barnston Island.


Barnston Island preemptions 1877

Fred Clark lived with Lewis Dodgson at Robert Point, Barnston Island, opposite Surrey Bend.

Lewis Dodgson was an Englishman who first came to BC in 1864. He was a prosperous cattle dealer at Victoria. He settled on Barnston Island in 1877, taking up Lot 259, Group 1. Lewis Dodgson had a sister, Caroline, also residing in BC, and a brother Herbert, who married the sister of Governor Musgrave.

After selling out at Barnston Island, Lewis Dodgson lived in Burnaby and Vancouver. The retired rancher died at the hospital annex in the Grauer Building at Marpole, June 6, 1919, at the age of 80.


Fred Clark’s birthdate is often left blank on documents, and perhaps it was not known. Going by his age as recorded in the 1891 census he was born in 1867. Other records have settled on a birthdate of January 25, 1870.

Fred Clark has said he left Barnston Island when he was 9 years old, catching passage on a sternwheeler to Yale. He stayed with friends up at Spence’s Bridge and in returning to Yale the following year Fred found the canyon humming with industry under the impetus of railway construction. That would be 1880.

“And when this kid enquired what the blasting was for, he was told, ‘For the dry land steamboat.'” – Imbert Orchard.

Fred Clark worked many jobs over the years. He was working in a cannery at age 11. He picked hops, was a deckhand on the steamboats, he fished and built fishing boats.

In 1891 Fred was living with Sophia Browne, daughter of Owen Wormley Browne. The couple were living with Sophia’s three brothers and her widowed mother Terese Browne.

The 1898 voters list gives Fred Clarke’s address as Stave River and his occupation, Farmer.

Map of Musqueam IR & right-of-way for bridge approach & F Clarke house & barn

Fred Clark’s house and barn in Lot 2, Brownsville, appeared on a railway survey map. The Reserve church is near the centre of the map.

By the time of the census in 1901, Fred and Sophia were living on the south bank of the Fraser River at Brownsville, hard by the Indian Reserve, neighbours with Sophia’s brother Owen Forrester Browne and his mother, whose name is also recorded as Sophia. (No date of birth is given for the Brownes and Fred and Sophie Clark.)

Their neighbour to the west was Michael Barry, manager at James Punch’s Brownsville Hotel.

In 1891, 17-year old Sophia and 24 or 21-year old Fred had been just starting life together. In 1901, they had a family of a son and three daughters.

The Clark’s residence being hard by the south end of the Fraser River bridge, they eventually had to move. They lived many years thereafter on Peterson Hill.

Fred Clark worked locally as a boatbuilder and carpenter until he retired in 1936.

A son, Fred Jr., employed as a section hand on the railway, died of illness at age 15.

Sophia (Browne) Clark died in 1962, her age given as 88. Her obituary states she was survived by her husband Frederick, a son and four daughters, 14 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.

Fred Clark died in 1968, at an age stated to be 98 years, although he may well have been a 100 years old.

An obituary notice in the British Columbian states he was survived by one son and 3 daughters, 17 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren, and 5 great-great-grandchildren.

Fred Clark cross

In 1957 Sophie and Fred Clark were called upon to identify an old iron grave-marker from the cemetery at Langley Indian Reserve No. 7, on the hill, now Kwantlen Park. New Westminster Archives Photo from The British Columbian, July 16, 1957. This photo also appears in Land of the Peace Arch, where John Pearson names Mrs Clarke as Insaud Clarke.

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