The Municipality of Saanich at one point consisted of all the lands South of the City of Victoria from what is now the District of Saanich right up to North Saanich by the Ferry Terminal. These lands were purchased by Hudson Bay factor James Douglas, from the native Tribe of Saanich, (Saanich is the Indian word for "good soil") for an undisclosed sum back in 1852. Then, in 1906 the area broke up into the distinct districts of Saanich, Central Saanich, Sidney, and North Saanich until this day. What is now the District of Saanich was referred to as South Saanich in those days. Many streets, landmarks, and areas within Saanich are named after the early farming pioneers into this area.
Saanich was founded on 1st March, 1906. Mr. F. Turgoose was returning officer and at a meeting called on March 8th, the nomination of seven men was secured, thus no election was needed. On March 10th they were sworn in and Thos. Brydon was selected to act as Reeve. The first clerk was H.O. Case. In 1908 the Municipality was divided into six wards, later a seventh was added. At first there was strong opposition to its formation and during the debate it was suggested that the Lake and South Saanich Districts be left out. In the light of later day events it would have been wise had this proposal been acceded to. It is today a thriving, thickly settled municipality and ere long will outnumber Victoria in population and completely dwarf it. As we shall see, Ward Six later seceded from Saanich.
The Hudson's Bay Company were quick to recognize 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 the vicinity of Victoria, 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.
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.
WILLIAM THOMSON the second white man to settle in Saanich is the pioneer who should be given the pre-eminence over all the others. Unlike many of the early settlers, he really proved the possibilities of the future and his work and diligence set the pattern for the district. He is also listed on the 185 9 voters' list as having a freehold farm of 200 acres named " Bannockburn." Mt. Newton Cross Road now runs by the farm and the house, which William Thomson built for his large family.
In truth it can be said that he was the first real farmer in Saanich. William Thomson was a Scotsman. He was born in 1829 and died in 1908, aged seventy-nine years. He was a shipwright by trade. At the age of nineteen he signed as a ships' carpenter on a freighter taking supplies to the Crimea for the army fighting in the Crimean Campaign. News of the California gold rush induced him to ship aboard a vessel bound for San Francisco. He worked at this port caulking vessels. He was paid $50.00 a side. It was good money but he had the urge to move onward so again shipped on a vessel bound for Vancouver's Island. The ship was named S.S. "William." On New Year's Eve 1854 this ship piled up on the rocks near Clo-oose and sank.
The cause of the tragedy is not certain. Maybe the captain and crew had been celebrating too well and not too wisely. Sixteen 14 of the crew, among them William Thomson scrambled ashore. They were met by a hostile looking band of Indians almost as soon as they had broached a keg of rum which somehow washed ashore with them. They quickly spilled the rest on the beach. A pow-wow ensued and by the angry looks of some of the natives the sailors began to wonder if they were to be slain. Eventually they were taken to the Indian village and treated almost as slaves. When Spring arrived the Indians who were delivering their pelts or skins to Victoria took the white men with them. They traded them off to Governor Douglas for seven blankets each.
Some of them were sent to Cadboro Bay to help build a barn for the H. B. Co. farm. It was here that Thomson met Angus McPhail and possibly explains the reason they settled near each other. They actually squatted on their land as no surveys had yet been made. The land, however, really belonged to the H.B.C., they having bought all the land of North and South Saanich for " Forty-one pounds, thirteen shillings and four pence." This works out at about one cent an acre. It was June, 1855, when Thomson finally selected a site for his homestead. There were no roads, of course, just meandering trails or horse paths. To get supplies out to his farm he had to use canoes or boats. It is said that on one trip, when he was loaded down with a half ton of provisions, nineteen pigs and three men, it took them four days to come from Victoria around the peninsula.
In December, 1856, William Thomson married Margaret Dyer, daughter of Mrs. Duncan Lidgate by a former marriage. He brought his wife and their first child, six months old, out to his Saanich home on the first of April, 1858. The child's name was David. He was followed by fourteen others. Alex was next, the first white child to be born in Saanich. Then, in order, William (met with fatal accident at nine years old), Richard, Helen (Mrs. McKenzie), Walter, Elizabeth (Mrs. Fraser), Fanny (Mrs. Bissett), John, Charlie (Ted), Grace (a spinster), Archibald (drowned in a well), Hugh, Robert, Gertrude (Mrs. Hughes). Besides his farming activities he did road contracting and many of the original roads were built by him.
He was also very active in the community life and welfare. He gave land 15 and assisted in building St. Stephen's Anglican Church even though he was a staunch Presbyterian. He also gave the land for a schoolhouse and was one of the instigators of the Saanich Agricultural Society. He was its second president and the second fair, 1869, was held on his farm. Without much exaggeration it could be said he was " the father of Saanich." DUNCAN LIDGA TE came to Victoria on the second trip of the S.S. "Norman Morison," reaching Victoria about December, 1853. He worked at his trade of carpenter for the H.B.C. The workers who came out to work for the H.B.C. were indentured to them for a certain length of time, after which, they were entitled to grants of land. Mechanics were allowed fifty acres, laborers twenty-five acres.. Lidgate must have been classed as a mechanic seeing that he got fifty acres allotted to him. He first took up land at Four Mile House but later switched to Saanich near Mount Newton and next to William Thomson. This was in 1858 and he appears on the voters' list of that year for Saanich. He was married in Scotland to a young widow by the name of Dyer. She had a daughter by her first marriage, Margaret, who became Mrs. William Thomson. Duncan Lidgate was also a widower with a daughter who became Mrs. Pike. The second marriage of these two produced a son, William Lidgate, who was the father of a large family in Saanich. Mrs.Lidgate married a third time to a man named Pritchard. She was in great and general demand as a nurse and many of the people of Saanich in the earlier days can thank her for helping them safely into the world. She was usually referred to as " Granny." Duncan Lidgate helped build Craigflower School and also St. Stephen's Church of which he was a Warden. He was buried in St. Stephen's Churchyard in 1874.
GEORGE DEEKS is another whose name appears on the Saanich voters' list of 1859. His land was described as Swan Place and its area 200 acres. It was located both sides of what is now Stelly's Cross Road. There was no road there then of course, and one wonders why the road was not named after Deeks seeing that he was the first settler there. He was rather elderly when he purchased the land in 1872, or thereabouts. He sold the land to Alphonse Verdier and moved into Victoria.
According to reports of old timers he was a good farmer and " could plough straight as a line." He built up quite a fine herd of cattle. Deeks and his wife were of English farming stock. They had no family or relatives in the neighborhood or in the city, consequently little is known of their background. HENRY SIMPSON was another of the original names on the 1859 voters' list of Saanich, listed with three hundred acres freehold. It took in the rest of the valley not owned by Thomson, Lidgate and McPhail and extended to the East Road that runs through Saanichton. It could be said that, as well as being one of the first farmers in Saanich. he was also the first business man for in 1859 he raised a mortgage on his land for " Eighty three Pounds Six Shillings and Eight Pence." The loan was obtained from a John Schmidt of Esquimalt. The indenture for this loan is still in the possession of a grand-daughter, Mrs. Albert Doney, who, with her husband and family, still owns and lives on a part of the old Simpson farm.
Evidently the mortgage was paid in due course. The reason for the loan was to enable Henry Simpson to build a " Tavern " near the trail or road from and to Victoria. The tavern was duly built and called the" Prairie Tavern." In 1893 he entered into an agreement with one S. Martin, to build a hotel near the site of the Prairie Tavern. The cost or contract was " Two Thousand, Two Hundred Dollars." When completed it was named the "Prairie Inn." It was a real hostel, catering to travellers and wayfarers or anyone else who wished for a drink or a good meal.
In the early days he also ran a hack horse service and he had his horses trained so that they would return home without a rider. There was a provision. The horse had to be fed and watered before being turned loose on the homeward journey. Later, when there were some sort of roads, Henry Simpson operated a stage to Victoria. He also carried the mail. some of which was delivered by his daughter Emma after school hours. In addition to all this he did road contracting in conjunction with William Thomson. Burnside Road was one of the roads built by them. He also found time for community work. He was a director and one of the originators of the Saanich Agricultural Society and gave them the land where the Saanich Fair is held. He also helped to promote ploughing matches some of which were held on his land. He donated prizes for t:hese events as well as sponsoring games and horse races. On one 17 of his trips to England he brought back fruit trees and planted them on his farm.
Henry Simpson was from Kent, England, and his wife, Adelaide, was from Essex, England. There is a possibility that Henry Simpson, who was first employed as a baker for the H.B.C. was in Victoria for some time and then returned to England for his wife. They are on the records as having arrived on the ship "Norman Morison" in January, 1853. They both worked for the H.B.C. for a time before coming out to Saanich, he as a baker and she as a laundress. They had a family all told of fourteen children, some of whom died young. Those who grew up in the district are Henry J., Mary Ann (Mrs. Mcllmoyle), Sarah (Mrs. Patterson), William, Edward, George, Charles, Emma (Mrs. Malcolm), Albert James, Adelaide (Mrs. Wain). JOHN COLES also appears on the 1859 voters' list for Saanich District.
He had 50 acres freehold near Coles' Harbor which was named after him. He was born in London, England. He was a midshipman on H.M.S. Thetis, which was stationed for a time at Esquimalt and later took part in the Crimean War. He returned to Vancouver Island in 1857 and bought more land. In 1861 he was assessed for 514 acres ( west half of the airport). He does not appear to have done much in an agricultural way as we find him living on Broughton Street in 1864. He was the first Member of the Legislature for Saanich. He returned to England in 1866. There was a question as to whether Mark Coles, who also gave his birthplace as London, was a brother of John Coles. He is shown on the assessment roll of 1864 as having ownership of 299 acres. He died of heart disease in the St. George Hotel, View Street, Victoria, March 13th, 1865, age 28. There was some fuss in the papers concerning his death. WILLIAM TOWNER was a pioneer hop grower of North Saanich. He was born in Kent, England, leaving there in April, 185 8, on a sailing ship from New York. A brother accompanied him. He went to Ontario and worked on a hop farm for a short time. From there he journeyed to California, again working in the hop fields there. It was natural that he should be interested in hops, seeing that Kent is the major hop growing county in England.
He came from California in 1864, bringing some hop plants with him and immediately proceeded to North Saanich where, in partnership with a man 18 named Cloake, he started the hop growing industry. He then bought three hundred and eighteen acres which were bounded on the East by the West Road and on the North by the Downey Road. It reached down to the sea and what is now Towner Park was part of the farm. Towner Bay is also, of course, named after him. He built three hop houses or kilns, which were a landmark for many years. He also introduced the California grape but the venture did not thrive too well. He was a bachelor and at his death the land became the possession of some nieces. He did not mix much in community affairs. ISAAC CLOAK or CLOAKE was a pioneer farmer of Deep Cove who, with William Towner, commenced hop growing in North Saanich.
He came to a tragic end, having been burnt to death in his shack during the night of September 17th, 1876. He is buried in the cemetery of St. Stephen's Church. There is little information or data on him as he does not appear to have left any offspring or relatives. WILLIAM and CHARLES REAY were a couple of bachelors who came from England in 1854. After working and gold mining in the Interior for some years they came out to North Saanich and purchased eleven hundred acres. This tract of land stretched from midway of the present airport east to where the Brethour farms commenced, then along their south boundary to the sea. Some of it is now part of the airfield.
They were shipwrecked coming into the Esquimalt Harbor and had to come ashore by canoe. They would never venture on the sea again. A nephew, Thomas Robert Smith, came out to them in 1871. William Reay was the first magistrate in North Saanich. THOMAS MICHELL with his wife Margaret came from Swansea, Wales. They were of Huguenot stock who fled to the south of England from the religious persecution that occurred in France in the 16th and 17th centuries. Soon after their marriage the Michells emigrated to the U.S.A., arriving in Baltimore in 185 6. There was unrest in that country and a civil war in the offing. After two years they returned to Wales. A son was born to them in I 8 61. When this child was six months old they set out for the West again. This time they set their sights on the British Colony, Vancouver's Island. The long tedious voyage around the 19 Cape Horn was made in the sailing ship " Sylistra."
They were accompanied by Thomas Michell's sister and husband, A. Wynne, and their son George. Four months and eighteen days were taken for the trip. Mr. Michell's first venture in Victoria was operating a grocery store on Johnson Street and later on Government Street. He then got the gold rush fever and went to the Cariboo. He had some success and with his modest poke returned to Victoria and opened a hotel on Yates Street called the "What Cheer House." The Dominion Hotel now stands on the same site. In 1867 he went out to South Saanich and bought one hundred and twenty-five acres of land from a colored man by the name of Estes and an interesting receipt dated March 26th, 1868, states that Thomas Michell bought of Howard Estes 21 head of cattle, small and big, 18 pigs, 24 chicken and turkeys, 1 wagon and harness, 1 plow, milking pans, etc., for the sum of $650.00.
The witness to the receipt was an old pioneer lawyer of Victoria, H. F. Heisterman. Thomas Michell brought the first steam threshing outfit to Saanich. He also was interested in all community projects. He served as a school trustee for many years. Mrs. Michell was noted for her farm products, the surplus of which she sold in Victoria, transporting them there on horseback "sidesaddle." In addition she acted as a nurse to the sick neighbors. Many a child born in Saanich first saw the light of day aided by her helping hand. For her kindly help she became known as Lady of the Valley.
They had a family of six children ; "John R.", a one-time member of the B.C. Legislature; Mary Victoria (Mrs. P . Morley), who almost was kidnapped by an Indian; Margaret (Mrs. T. Smith); Emily J. (Mrs. Alex Menagh) ; George T., still living at the time of writing, and whose wife Eliza McGraw was the daughter of the man who introduced the Skylark to the Saanich Peninsula ; and William T., the youngest. From this branch of the family it appears the name of Michell will be perpetuated for many years. One of his sons is still living on the old homestead. WILLIAM TURGOOSE was born in Lincolnshire, England. He first emigrated to Illinois, U.S.A. While there he developed a horse trading business. ran a threshing machine and other agricultural pursuits.
In 1861 he trekked across the 20 plains to California in the covered wagon mode of those days. He arrived in Sacramento when that district was experiencing a flood. Hearing of the Cariboo strike he sold some of his horses. He kept four and landed with them in Victoria. He went to work with his horses on the old Esquimalt Road. After saving enough money he sold his horses and headed for the Cariboo, where he bought an interest in the famous Raby Claim on Williams Creek. After two years he sold out his claims and came back to Victoria and decided to settle in the district. He went out into the Saanich district and bought a farm originally owned by a H. B. C. doctor by the name of Tuzo. It was being operated then by a man named Fronton, probably on a rental basis, as he does not appear on a voters' list of that period. This man planted a fifteen-acre apple orchard. The farm consisted of five hundred acres and William Turgoose paid $10.00 an acre for it. The northwest corner of this land is the centre of Saanichton. It stretched east to the Indian Reserve and south to the Michell farm. Part of it is now called the Saanichton Farm. while another part of it is owned by a grandson, Willard Michell. After purchasing the farm Turgoose made a trip to England, then back again to Illinois to marry his sweetheart, Emma Pope, then back to Saanich in 1865 to finally settle down.
He bred purebred horses of the Morgan strain and introduced the Durham or Shorthorn breed of cattle. The progeny of the horses were in demand by the livery stables, while progeny from his cattle became the foundation stock for many cattle ranchers. William Turgoose died in 1885, but his wife survived him till 1922. They had a family of seven children, one boy Fred, and six daughters. The first child Fanny remained a spinster. Emma married a building contractor by the name of Merkley. Annie married W. D. Michell of the pioneer Michell family. Carrie became Mrs. Pope. Mr. Pope was a sawmill man. Lottie was the wife of Bob Stewart, a miner. Stewart, B.C., is named after him. Winnie married Jack Brooks, son of Henry James Brooks, who had bought the old Deeks Farm, or Logana Farms of later years. William Turgoose did not occupy any civic positions but he was keenly interested in the development of the district and gave the land for the first South Saanich school. The proviso 21 of the gift was that it could only be used for educational purposes. The land still belongs to the school district, but the school itself was abandoned many years ago. More of this elsewhere. There was also a Post Office established at the Turgoose place, the forerunner of the Saanichton P.O.
THOMAS POTTER bought 100 acres of land from Jackson Estes in what is now called the Michell Valley, about half-way along Telegraph Road. From there it ran down to the sea. He does not appear to have done much farming, for in a few years he sold his farm and eventually started a brewery business in Victoria. JOHN DAWSON bought the Potter farm in 1878. He had been mining around Cassiar, where he made enough money to pay Potter six thousand dollars in cash for the property. Dawson married a Mary Munro, daughter of a pioneer of James Island. He was killed on the Brethour farm at Sidney. His horses, which were attached to a binder, became frightened and dragged the machine over him. This was probably the first farm machine fatality in the Province of B.C. It was a tragic end to what promised to be a career of usefulness to the community.
He was a member of the old fraternity of A.O.U.W. The members of this association paid him a glowing written memorial tribute. Mrs. Dawson later married Robert Anderson. A daughter of the marriage, Miss Christina Anderson, and a Dawson son, George, still live on the old Dawson farm, but much of the original farm has been subdivided and sold. GEORGE STEPHEN BUTLER. born in 1834, in the county of Hampshire, England, was the son of a clergyman. He was educated at Oxford University. In 1854 he joined the army. England was at war with Russia so, with his unit, the 17th Light Infantry, he went to the Crimea. He rose to the rank of Captain and was wounded in the siege of Sebastopol. After the war his regiment was posted to Quebec. Even though on the other side of Canada, news had reached this distant point of the Cariboo gold.
He sold his commission, returned to England and booked passage on a sailing ship. "The Shannon." It is not clear where he left the ship, but it is known that he crossed the Panama Isthmus and then took a boat for San Francisco and thence to Victoria, arriving here in 1861 and then on to the Fraser River to the goldfields. He spent six 22 years seeking the elusive metal, meeting with varying success. In 1868 he returned to Victoria where, it appears, he had a date with a young lady by the name of Miss Fanny Catherine Brett, who was also from Hampshire, England. She was born in 184 3. They were married on March 17th, 1868. Mrs. Butler had been a governess in England. She was also an accomplished pianist. Educationists were scarce in those days, consequently her services were immediately sought by William Thomson of Bannockburn who. with others, had built a school on his land on what is now the Mt. Newton Cross Road.
THOMAS LOWE. On the 1861 assessment roll this man owned all the land on the north side of Mills Road to what is now the John Road and linked up to the east with the 51 Booth, later the Johns, farm. It was later purchased by WILLIAM EDWARDS. Neither of these men appear to have resided on the property or did much improvement on it. Neither of these names appear on the voters' list, but in 1874 WILLIAM CLARK is shown as residing on this property and it was he who made it into a farm. GEORGE MILLS was a native of Fermanagh County, Ireland. He came to the Coast in the early sixties and immediately went to the gold fields, or perhaps one should say the creeks, for it was at Lightning Creek he purchased part of a claim. Two of his partners were Brackman and Roberts who, by the way, were neighbors of his in North Saanich. After his return from the gold mining venture he married Miss Ann Nicholson, daughter of Joseph Nicholson, a pioneer of the Lake District. He had purchased the Arlington farm from the Horths which, as we have observed, consisted of most of the westerly half of today's Patricia Bay Airport. A good farmer, he was noted for his high class cattle. It is said that he was the first man to raise turkeys on a commercial scale. He gave the land for the church and cemetery of Holy Trinity Church at Patricia Bay. It was called Union Bay then. Mills Road is named after him. It was ironical that he should be the first person to be buried in Holy Trinity Cemetery.
The cause of death was diagnosed as "inflammation of the bowels," which today we know as appendicitis. He was fifty-three when he died. Their children were Robert Francis, Evis Jane (Mrs. C. Mcllmoyle), Sarah Anne, Catherine (Mrs. Menzies), Ina (Mrs. Clapham). MOSES, ROWDEN and MARCUS WALTER were colored men who owned land north of Brookleigh Road. Rowden is on the South Saanich voters' list of 1875 to 1882 as a farmer near Elk Lake, but Marcus Walter is on the Lake District list. Little information can be gathered about these men. It is said they were neighbors of a man called Dupont. DUPONT, first name unknown, was a big, tall Frenchman. He was a charcoal burner. He had a good market for this in Victoria when the Chinese citizens were allowed to make opium. At one time he was supposed to have been a rich man and a street in San Francisco is named after him. He never appeared on any voters' list, even if he owned land. He is buried in the Catholic cemetery.