Who were Frank and Louise Johnson?
That’s what Bill Field, a longtime Ocean Park resident, is trying to find out, after the names of the long-deceased pair were recently found engraved on a headstone uncovered on a nearby property in his Kwomais Point-area neighbourhood.
Early last week, the headstone was discovered by members of a work crew, which is onsite as the large property, located on 13 Avenue, just west of 129A Street, is being redeveloped. Work immediately stopped at the site, Field said, though the crews were back working Monday (April 6), and told Field they were instructed to continue work on other areas of the property without disturbing the headstone site.
The headstone lists two people – Frank D.B. Johnson (1891-1955) and Louise L. Johnson (1880-1967).
Field, who has lived about a half block east of the site since 1986 – “We’re the last of the reverends’ cottages from Camp Kwomais, and the last (property) with any trees,” he said – had never heard of the Johnsons before. He told Peace Arch News that three generations of the Tuttle family had lived there, dating back to the 1930s, until the last member of the family sold the property and moved out “in about 2004 or ’05.”
The flat memorial stone is close enough to the road that Field believes it lies on part of the property that used to be owned by the city, until, he says, Morley Tuttle purchased part of the road allowance from the City of Surrey in the 1970s.
There are two homes currently on the property, Field said. One is occupied, while the second one is the site of the re-development work.
An email to the City of Surrey’s planning and development department was not immediately returned.
Field said he heard about the headstone last week when another neighbour, whose house overlooks the under-development property, emailed him to tell him what the crew had found. In an effort to help, the 73-year-old Field said he wandered over to the property, where RCMP were now on site, thinking that the headstone was, in fact, something different entirely.
‘There used to be a set of small markers – not headstones, but markers – that were closer to 13 Avenue on that same property. You used to be able to see them from 13th avenue, and I’d see them when I’d go for a walk,” Field explained.
“But I can’t find them now because a cedar hedge has grown so tall. I believe those markers were Tuttle-related, so when I heard, I was thinking, ‘Oh, I know all about that’ but when I got there, the RCMP led me to this one, which was different.”
Field suspects the headstone is either marking the spot that ashes were spread, or simply a remembrance stone with no ashes or other remains underneath.
Finding anyone who might know who the Johnsons were is difficult, Field said, because all the neighbourhood’s longtime residents have either moved away or died.
“When I moved here in ’86, we had a neighbour on one side in his 90s, another one in his late 90s… two or three doors down we had (a woman) who was 101. And back then, you could talk to them and they’d tell you all kinds of stories about the neighbourhood,” he said.
“But I seem to be the go-to guy for that now, I guess.”
With no elders to lean on for information, and a working theory that perhaps the Johnsons were related to the Tuttles by marriage, Field has set out to track down as much information as he can. He has called every Tuttle in B.C. that he can find, without any luck, though he thought he might’ve had a match last week when he found a George Tuttle – the name of the last Tuttle to live at the property – living in the Lower Mainland.
“He was an older fella and I thought I’d struck gold, but he said he’d never lived in Ocean Park,” Field said.
Field has also reached out to the BC Genealogical Society for help, though as of Monday he had yet to hear if the society’s research team had found any new information.
He combed through odd records of the Ocean Park Community Association, but that avenue also failed to turn up any new leads.
“The closest I got to a Johnson was a Johnstone, so not quite,” he said. “No other Johnsons (appear) to have been members, and back then everybody belonged. It’s hard to figure this one out.
“It’s quite a mystery, it really is. It’s just got me wondering.”
Anyone will information is asked to email Field at firstname.lastname@example.org