In the days before Highway 525 was constructed, Surface Road was a main link between Wilkinson Road (which winds its way from Clinton to Langley along the Saratoga waterfront), and Cultus Bay Road. The area between Surface and Campbell Roads, just north of the Smith-Campbell farm, became home to several settlers over the years. The best known of these was the Surface family for whom the road was named. Family descendants have remained on South Whidbey through four generations.
Gilbert and Myrtle Surface arrived at the Clinton dock in 1908 with their two sons, Carl and Ray. They moved into the Clinton Hotel where they lived for a time until they could familiarize themselves with the island. Gilbert was a builder by trade and he immediately started work helping to construct the Presbyterian church in Clinton near the hotel. Later he built many of the homes throughout the area.
What the Surfaces were really seeking, however, was a secluded spot where they could settle down, build a house, and start a farm. They found their dream home on the slope between Surface, Cultus Bay, and Campbell Roads. There was a sparkling clear running spring on a small hill and it was beside the spring that Gilbert Surface built a house for his family. He also built a barn and planted a big orchard. They lived on the property until 1914, then moved to LaConner, where a daughter, Belma, was born. Later they moved to Oregon. Other children, besides Carl, Ray, and Belma included a daughter who died. She is buried in Bayview Cemetery, and two sons, Gary and Clyde.
Gilbert Surface died in Oregon in 1925. His widow returned to South Whidbey where she married Dave Gibson. Upon her death she was buried in Bayview Cemetery. Clyde Surface was a captain with the Washington State ferries for many years. He is now retired and lives on the Cultus Bay Road.
Gary went to Yakima for a time, married Evelyn, a Yakima girl, and they returned to the island and established their home on Cultus Bay Road. Gary died in 1982, but Evelyn still resides in the family home as this is written. They have 12 children. Only three of them, Anita Poolman, Leota Brown and Wilfred remain on South Whidbey in the Clinton area.
Carl married a mainland girl and they lived away from the island until 1934 when they returned and established their home on Surface Road about a quarter of a mile above its intersection with Wilkinson Road. Their nearest neighbors were the Zimmermans. Carl and his wife, Wilhelmina, had six sons but none now live on the island.
Gilbert and Myrtle Surface’s daughter, Belma, married into the pioneer Erikson-Engstrom family. Her husband, Arnold Engstrom, was the son of the E.G. Engstroms who came to Clinton from Sweden in 1907. They originally bore the name Erikson but changed it to Engstrom when they received their citizenship papers. Belma and Arnold left the island for a time, but returned to discover that the original house built by Gilbert Surface for his family, had burned and the property had been put up for tax sale. They wanted very much to buy back Belma’s childhood home but arrived too late. It already had been sold. They eventually settled in their present home on Deer Lake Road where they have lived for over 40 years.