CRAIGFLOWER farmhouse stands today with its quiet, unchanging dignity, a monument to sound workmanship. "Colwood" was torn down; "Oaklands" was burned to the ground: the Macaulay home disappeared without trace. "Craigflower" is the sole survivor of the four farm homes which were to the tenant farmers living in their one roomed cottages or huts, "the big houses" or "the manor houses" of Esquimalt. At the crossroads where today Admirals Road, Craig-flower Road and the Island Highway meet, the old house was built by Kenneth Mackenzie in a grove of fine maple trees, overlooking the placid waters of Portage Inlet and the Gorge. Its hand-hewn beams and hand-sawn timbers are sound, its forge-made nails still hold. The stout old door, iron-studded, with heavy hand-wrought hinges, was intended to protect the Mackenzie family from attacki1i.g Indians. The staunchly built house has resisted the weather for all but a century. It took the beauty of the farm site and its evident fertility to persuade Kenneth Mackenzie, a native of Rosshire, Scotland, to stay in the colony. Both he .and his wife were insulted at the poor accommodation provided for them on arrival at the Fort. Officers of the Hudson's Bay Company had some difficulty in dissuading them from taking their five children and all their household goods back to Scotland on the return trip of the Nornian Morison.
Kenneth Mackenzie had brought with him, carpenters, blacksmiths and laborers, with their wives and families, twenty-five families in all. Machinery and tools came with them in the Norman Morison, so that work might be started without delay. With this help the walls and roof of the house were soon rising. The Mackenzies did not wait for the partitions to be built or the floor to be laid before moving in to their new home. There was a huge fireplace in the center of the house which served for heating and cooking. "Craigflower" was named by Kenneth Mackenzie after the farm in England owned by Andrew Colvile, Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company from 1852 to 1856. When finished "Craigflower" was a mansion for those days and rivalled even the Governor's residence for size and comfort. The lands of Craigflower Farm stretched from the Gorge and Portage Inlet to Esquimalt Harbor, and from Skinner's Cove to Thetis Cove, excluding the Songhees Indian Reserve on Plumper Bay. The south bank of the Gorge to the Constance Cove Farm line at the present Gorge Park belonged to Craigflower Farm, also the southern and western shores of Portage Inlet. Its produce could be freighted down the sheltered Gorge waters to the trading post at the Fort. The western boundary of the farm ran along the short trail across the narrow neck of land between Thetis Coye and Portage Inlet. Generations of Indians had carried their light cedar dugouts across this strip, scarcely a quarter of a mile wide, to reach the sheltered inner waterway. Later, officers and men from the naval ships anchored in Esquimalt Harbor, sometimes used this portage on their way to or from a visit to the Fort.
When seas in the Strait were too rough to make the outer passage, the sailors would lug the ships' boats over the trail. This portage, used before the first road was hewn out of the forest in Esquimalt, gave its name to Portage Inlet. Craigflower Farm was the largest of the four farms, covering 900 instead of 600 acres. Under Kenneth Mackenzie's energetic and able management it became the most important. He soon had a carpenter's shop and a blacksmith's shop set up. He built a saw mill and a flour mill, a brick kiln and a slaughter house. After their first misunderstanding, Kenneth Mackenzie got on very well with the Hudson's Bay Company officials. Being Scots they understood each other. Governor Douglas became a friend and visitor at "Craigflower." Around the great fireplace, Governor, admirals, captains and other senior officers would foregather and discuss, over a glass of grog, the threat of the Crimean War, the state of the Colony and important happenings in the world outside. Midshipmen and junior officers came too to enjoy Mrs. Mackenzie's excellent cooking and warm hospitality and to ride or play games with the young Mackenzies.
The Mackenzies had eight children, the five who came with them from Scotland and three born at "Craigflower." There were four daughters, Agnes, Dorothea Blair, Jessie, and Wlhelmina Ann Blair, or "Goodie" as she was always called. Four sons, Kenneth, Robert Gregory, Andrew Colville, and ·William Blair completed the family. Of all their handsome sons and daughters, "Goodie" was the best looking. According to an old timer, she was "as lovely as a Greek goddess and the belle of many a ball," yet she remained unmarried. Kenneth Mackenzie did not enter local politics. He attended strictly to the business of running the farm. In 1854 he was appointed a Justice of the Peace for the Peninsula. His powers as J.P. were very necessary, for life on the farm was not always smooth and pleasant. Among the large number of farm hands, whose small homes formed a colony of 21 dwelling houses at the end of 1854, with a population of 76, there were malcontents and troublemakers.
An interesting document in the Provincial Archives, a diary kept by Robert Melrose, entitled "Royal Emigrant's Almanack concerning Five Years Servitude under the Hudson's Bay Company on Vancouver's Island," gives a day-by-day account of the happenings at Craigflower Farm. In it we read of drinking, fighting, imprisonments and desertions, also of scientific meetings with lectures and lean1ed discussions on such subjects as "From the time of Abraham to the glory of the Roman Empire," "Genealogical description of the Anglo-Saxon race," and "The immortality of the soul." He records all the births, deaths and marriages on the farm, the arrival of livestock from Nisqually, the discovery of limestone, the opening of Craigflower Bridge and of Parson's public house (Six Mile House at Parson's Bridge). with numerous other events on the Farm and at the Fort. He also records the comings and goings of the Company's busy little trading and supply vessels, the Beaver, the Cadboro, the Vancouver, the Otter, and the arrival and departure of Her Majesty's ships of war at Esquimalt Harbor. In the early years the farm hands were drilled daily in military maneuvers and went armed to their work, to protect them from attacks by ambushed Indians. Every night a small cannon was discharged and every man fired his musket. These precautions had a salutary effect for there was little trouble with the Songhees who were friendly and curious rather than hostile.
At Maple Point, as the Craigflower neighborhood was called, there were 30 children under 15 years of age at the end of 1854. A school was built for these children in the autumn of that year and was opened in March, 1855, with Charles Clark as the first teacher. Craigflower School, one of the two colonial schools built by the First Council of Vancouver's Island, is the oldest school building now standing in Western Canada. Church services were held in the schoolhouse at irregular intervals by the schoolmaster or a chaplain from one of the warships. When the Rev. Edward Cridge arrived from England in April, 1855, to succeed the late Rev. Robert Staines as chaplain to the Hudson's Bay Company, monthly services were taken by Mr. Cridge in Craigflower Schoolhouse. Today it is used as a museum of Craigflower relics.
Naval activity increased in Esquimalt with the outbreak of the Crimean War. The three hospital huts were built on Duntze Head to receive wounded from the second attack on Petropavlovski and more warships arrived in the Harbour. Kenneth Mackenzie saw an opportunity) to add to the farm profits. He had large brick ovens built and undertook to supply bread and hardtack to the fleet. The plan was approved by the Senior Naval Officer who offered to lend him a ship's baker. During the Gold Rush days, Mackenzie advertised in "The British Colonist" :- "Pilot Bread, Soda, Boston, Sugar and Oyster Crackers. Wine and French Biscuits, at San Francisco prices. The public will be furnished with a fresh article of home manufacture. Miners can be supplied with small lots to suit their purposes for travel, which WILL NOT be damaged by SALT WATER, (or subjected to a sea voyage of 25 days.)" Kenneth Mackenzie's energies found another outlet in the building of "Maplebank."
He bought acreage on Dallas Bank, one of the loveliest spots in Esquimalt Harbor, on the north shore of Constance Cove. Here he built a comfortable house which he planned to rent to successive admirals. Ancient maples surrounded the house and shaded the garden and lawns sloping down to a delightful small beach. Paddocks and stables were built at the back, the whole enclosed in a white picket fence. Rear-Admiral the Hon. Joseph Denman, F.R.S., who was Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Station, from 1864 to 1866, and Mrs. Denman were the first tenants of "Maplebank." Rear-Admiral the Hon. George Fowler Hastings, C.B., followed Admiral Denman as Commander-in-Chief from 1866 to 1869. He brought his wife and one-year-old son, Hans Francis, to Esquimalt in his flagship, H;.M.S. Zealous. The Hastings followed the Denmans as tenants of "Maplebank," where another son, Walter Henry, was born. Mrs. Hastings was a keen horsewoman and planned many pleasant riding parties, ending at "Maplebank" for supper and a dance. She like Mrs. Denman, loved her garden and spent much time in it. Garden parties at "Maplebank" during both regimes, with croquet on the lawn and the ship's band playing, or picnic parties on the beach at the foot of the garden, all added to the gaiety of this naval station. "Admiral's House" was the name used for "Maplebank" while the two admirals and their families were living there. Bread and biscuits were supplied them from the Craigflower bakery and produce from the farm.
The trail from "Craigflower" to "Admiral's House" was widened into a road and became known as Admirals Road, the first use of the name and the first short section of today's long, winding Admirals Road. Hard times were coming to Kenneth Mackenzie and tis family. The affairs of the Puget Sound Agricultural Company were going from bad to worse. The farms on Vancouver Island and the one at Langley were neither large enough nor fertile enough to replace the thousands of rich, cultivated acres in the Oregon territory, lost to the Americans. Profits vanished, debts accumulated. The lavish hospitality dispensed by the bailiffs of the farms at the expense of the Company, may have had something to do with the deficits. Another blow came with the cancelling of the lease to the Hudson's Bay Company of Vancouver Island.
When, in 1858, Governor Douglas relinquished the management of the Honorable Company and its subsidiary, the Puget Sound Agricultural Company, to become Governor of the two Crown Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, there was no man of his caliber to succeed him. The farms and their equipment were finally taken over by the Hudson's Bay Company. The farms were leased or subdivided. Some of the choicest land in Esquimalt, part of the old farm lands, was held by the Company until l 934, when it reverted to the municipality for unpaid taxes. The loss of his position as bailiff of Craigflower Farm, with its salary of £ 60 a year and one fourth of the farm profits, was a serious blow to Kenneth Mackenzie. He tried to recoup his fallen fortunes by offering "Maplebank" for sale to the Admiralty. But these negotiations fell through and "Maplebank" also was taken over by the Hudson's Bay Company. Kenneth Mackenzie and his family were not easily parted from their beloved "Craigflower." In 1866, they were induced to move to Lakehill Farm, also owned by the Hudson's Bay Company. In "The British Colonist," Craigflower Farm lands were advertised for sale as a subdivision. So ends the story of the four Puget Sound Agricultural Company's farms, the four old farms that placed Esquimalt on the map as a place
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