North Saanich was previously part of the District of Saanich that encompassed all the lands within the Saanich Penninsula purchased from the Natives in 1852 for an undisclosed sum. The area was then split split into the four distrinct districts of Central Saanich, Saanich, North Saanich in Sidney in 1906.
Saanich is the Indian word for good soil, and right they were to give it that name, as it remains the food growing region of Victora to this very day. The Hudson's Bay Company back in the day recognized the need to grow foodstuffs near their posts or settlements, not only for human consumption, but fodder for their horses as well, consequently four farms were established in this area among others, under a subsidiary company of the H.B.C.
An account of these will be found in other writings. Suffice it to say that with the exception of one of them they were not a complete success. On the other hand the early settlers in Saanich were soon able to demonstrate the fertility of the soil and it was not long before they were selling their products to the householders in Victoria. The growing of grain was the first venture on any large scale, then dairying, sheep raising, poultry and hogs followed in quick succession.
To improve their livestock some of the farmers imported pure blooded stock even as far away as England. This practice has been maintained until the present time and it is no idle boast to say that Saanich has within its bounds some of the finest herds of cattle in B.C. and can compete with the best in Canada at any exhibition. It was not long before the farmers branched out into specialized crops. Hop growing was the first.
It has been narrated elsewhere who introduced this plant. It was a thriving business for a couple of decades but insufficient rainfall, coupled with competition from the Fraser Valley rendered the continuing of this crop unprofitable. As will also be noted elsewhere, seed-growing and nursery propagation was commenced in the 1870's. This branch of farming or horticulture continues. Grapes were introduced and quite an acreage was planted to this crop at one time, but our climate is a little too moderate for this fruit and again the competition from California was too keen. Tree fruits were introduced in the very early days of settlement and many fine orchards were soon dotted around Saanich, and it has been proven that apples grown in Saanich are comparable to any grown elsewhere. In later years it became difficult to compete with the Okanagan fruits.
One simple reason was the fact that the Saanich fruit was from older varieties and planted long before the Okanagan orchards. Soft fruit was a " natural," many of them growing wild. Almost immediately cultured varieties were introduced and gradually grew to be a commercial venture. Bramble fruit.
Many of the roads within North Saanich are named after Saanich Pioneers On the first voters' list which appeared for the Saanich District after Vancouver Island and the rest of British Columbia became a united British Colony in 1858, there are listed just eight names, William Thomson, Henry Simpson, Duncan Lidgate, George Deeks, John Coles, Aeneas McPhail. Leon Morrel and John Augustus Bull. JOHN AUGUSTUS BULL is credited with owning four hundred acres. He did not reside on his property as he was a seafaring man. In fact, fate did not give him a chance, as he died suddenly in 1860. An account of the inquest into his death appears in the Colonist, November 16th of that year. LEON MORREL is listed as having been the owner of twenty acres. Little is known of this man.
A man with this name was drowned in the Leech River in 1860 but, as the first or Christian name is not mentioned, one can only conjecture that it could be the same man. If it was, then this would account for the fact that neither he nor Bull, through the tragic death of both of them, was able to contribute much to the building up of the community. We mention them as historical data, yet with a twinge of sorrow for their sad fate. This name still appeared on the 1874 list.
WILLIAM PAGE and his son, also named William, came out on the first trip of the Norman Morison in 1862. He was employed by the H. B. Co. as a shepherd for many years. He was entitled to, and even offered, fifty acres of land but he refused it unless he could get it on San Juan Island. He appears on the early voters' list as a farmer but he could have been a renter of some parcel of land. He was in great demand as a sheep shearer. WILLIAM PAGE, JUNIOR was sixteen or seventeen when he arrived in Victoria with his father. He came out to Saanich to live and married an Indian of the Euclataw tribe, who, it is said had been captured in her youth and made a slave.
She was reputed to be a wonderful dancer. He appears on the South Saanich voters' list and again on the North Saanich up to 1904, although he does not appear to have owned much land. He did most of the sheep-shearing for the farmers in the early days. Three of his children died young but two sons, William and Johnny, grew to manhood.
AENEAS or ANGUS McPHAIL was the first white man to farm north of the Lake District. On the voters' list of 1859 he appears as Aeneas McPhail, Bay Farm, South Saanich, 177 acres, freehold. It was located near the western end of Mt. Newton. McPhail undoubtedly came from the north part of Scotland, probably from the Orkney Islands, as he could speak the Gaelic language. Before coming to Saanich he had worked for the Hudson Bay Company at Fort Simpson. He brought with him two daughters, one of whom was grown up and named Anne. She married Alphonse Verdier, who with his brother, Etienne, had squatted near the McPhail home. He married a native woman soon after and a daughter Mary became Mrs.
Frank Gravelle. He died at Verdier's and his land became the original homestead of James Hagen. McPhail's name does not appear on the voters' list of 1874 and there is some uncertainty as to the exact time of his death and his activities in his later years. 1855 was the year he squatted in Saanich.
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