Ploughing unearthed rare archaeological find

From our May 2019 issue

By Marlene Eddy Gray – Abbotsford, B.C.

In 1950, my parents, David and Margaret Eddy were farming a large acreage at 590 Johnston Road in Sullivan, B.C., on the northwest corner of what is now 152 Street and 72 Avenue in Surrey.

After supper and chores one evening, my parents decided to go for a walk to check out some bulldozing being done at the far end of the property. Although less than school age at the time, I can remember that walk as clearly as if it were yesterday.

As we entered a far field where dad had been ploughing that day, he left us briefly to recover a rock–one of the few on the farm–he’d hit earlier. In a later interview he stated: “It was pure chance that it turned up. I ploughed a dead furrow two furrows deep and was returning up the furrow when the point of the plough dug into the earth and turned up this stone.”

Dad split from us for a few minutes to pick it up. He was going to heave it into Bear Creek, a branch of the Serpentine River, which ran only a few feet way. My mother insisted it was not “just a rock”. She believed she saw a shape to it and after some resistance, she managed to retrieve it from my father and carry it back to the house.

Cleaning revealed a treasure

It was encased in hard packed dirt, likely some or a lot of clay, and the cleaning process was relatively long and tedious. Mom kept at it, finally revealing a carved bowl with figures of a bear’s head on one end and a tortoise at the other end. It was marvelously detailed. It measured 12 inches long, 3-1/2 inches high, and 4-1/2 inches across.

She set it into one of the many flower-laden window boxes attached to the house. It sat there until the boxes were cleaned and stored in the fall. It was then brought in for the winter and placed beside the fireplace.

Margaret Eddy holding the bowl near the place it had been unearthed two years prior.

Family friends, George and Henrietta White of Burnaby, were frequent visitors and George was quite intrigued with the carved bowl. He contacted an acquaintance who contacted T.P.O. Menzies, curator of the Museum of Vancouver.

Tom Menzies and his colleague Ruth Corbett paid a visit, as did several other archeology experts. Soon, the local newspaper was interviewing my mother and taking pictures. My father handily avoided the photo opportunities.

Museum displayed ‘Eddy Bowl’

Mr. Menzies and other professionals believed may have been a ceremonial bowl made by early Salish people and perhaps lost in a canoe mishap when Bear Creek was then a lagoon through swampy regions.

The stone bowl was presented to the Museum of Vancouver in 1952. Until the new museum was built, the bowl was displayed in a glass case just inside the entrance door with a card headed “The Eddy Bowl”. It described in detail the finding in our field and my mother’s insistence it not be thrown away. (No mention was made of “I told you so Dave” being said, but I do remember hearing it once or twice!)

‘The Eddy Bowl’ set up in the Eddy’s kitchen for photographing by the Surrey Leader newspaper.

It is still an outstanding piece at the Museum of Vancouver and is now called The Bear Creek Bowl after the location of the find.