Thursday, March 29, 2012

Old Cemeteries Society talk at St. Stephens

I apologize for the delay in posting this; my internet was interrupted for about three days -- it is now fixed and things will proceed, as normal, for a week or so.
As those of you who attended know, the event did happen although it appeared for a short while that it might not.
Heavy rain was forecast (and it did fall in the morning); but that afternoon the skies were clear and blue and it was a beautiful spring day, for the most part.

I will pick up this talk from the paragraph on the last posting: "Life must have been hard for the first settlers, who had to carve a homestead from the wilderness. It was almost ten years before they were well enough established to desire a church for themselves, and a school for their children..."

On February 11, 1862, Scottish settler William Thomson deeded five acres of farmland to Right Reverend George Hills, Bishop of British Columbia, for the purpose of building a church and a school. Interestingly, Thomson was a Presbyterian, but most of the other settlers, including his wife, were Anglican. The only available minister, Reverend Richard Lowe, was also an Anglican minister.

There were no established sawmills at this time (that cut fine boards at least), so the colonists ordered redwood timber from California and hauled it from Fort Victoria to the Mount Newton Valley with a span of oxen.
While the settlers waited for the timber to arrive, they cleared and levelled the land for both church and graveyard. The first three settlers willing to abandon their farming for this heavy work were William Thomson, Duncan Lidgate, and Alexander Caulfield Anderson.
Anderson owned land in North Saanich, though he did not yet reside there.

The building was finished five months after the timber arrived, and the church held its first service and dedication on June 3rd, 1862, with Rev. Richard Lowe officiating. According to historian Bruce McKelvie, the country was so wild and forested that Reverend Lowe had to fight off both bear and panther when he and his wife carried out the load of foodstuffs for the official dedication. (An exaggeration, as I am sure you are aware).

Right Reverend George Hills consecrated the South Saanich church four months later, and reported that, "the church is a pretty structure and well situated. Today it was fairly filled, a considerable addition to the people of the village being made by some sixty friends from Victoria who drove and rode on horseback and in carriages to give the good work a hearty support... Among those present were three Jews, who gave liberally and took a marked interest in the proceedings. This is the first church erected in the rural districts; I trust many more will follow."

One thing is unique about this church -- whenever anyone is in the hall, this church door is left open and anyone can come in to explore the church or to worship. I visited this cemetery many times before I knew that I could also see the inside of the church.

There are now 500 people buried in this old cemetery; the first burials were scattered in the area directly in front of the church entrance -- and that is where we will remain, for the most part. As I have already told you about William Thomson, let us begin at his grave.

WILLIAM THOMSON, d. 11 Aug. 1908, 72 y., MARGARET THOMSON, d. 11 Oct. 1920, 79 y.
William Thomson was born near Dundee, Scotland, in 1829. He apprenticed as a ship's carpenter and, once he got his papers, he left Scotland for adventures in the West. By 1851 he was in San Francisco, California. He took passage north to Vancouver's Island on a small ship called the "William," which was blown off course in rough seas and shipwrecked on the west coast of Vancouver's Island. The drunken captain drowned, but the passengers all reached shore, and the sixteen men who survived the wreck were just broaching the barrel of rum when they were captured by Nitinat Natives and kept as slaves for almost six months. Or so the story goes, though James Douglas' report says the men were actually imprisoned for only a short time before they were brought to the fort and traded for blankets. The fearsome Nitinats were, in fact, their rescuers.

Thomson worked for the Hudson's Bay Company long enough to pay back the cost of the blankets the Company had ransomed him with, and the clothing they had supplied him (he had arrived at the fort almost naked). By July 1855 he had made a profit from his employment at Craigflower Farm. Dairyman Angus McPhail, who also worked at the farm, befriended Thomson and took him over a trail to the Mount Newton Valley, showing him land that he, McPhail, had already purchased from the HBC. William Thomson staked two hundred acres of land next door to McPhail's, and paid the HBC fourteen pounds, thirteen shillings and fourpence for the deed.

So William Thomson was the second settler in Saanich and his residence was along the so far non-existant Mount Newton Cross Road. He built a little house he called Bannockburn, and returned to Fort Victoria to propose to fifteen-year-old Margaret Dyer, step-daughter of DUNCAN LIDGATE (who we will speak of later).

The couple married in 1856, and for a year or so lived in a little house outside Fort Victoria, where their first child was born. Thomson's wife was the first white woman to reside in the Mount Newton valley, and the second Thomson child was the first white child born in Saanich.

Within a few years Thomson had six other close neighbours, amongst them his father-in-law, Duncan Lidgate. Besides farming up to 200 acres of land, William Thomson built many of the original roads in the area and was a diligent community worker, helping to found the Saanich Agricultural Fair and being the driving force behind the building of St. Stephens Church. In 1862, when the church was under construction, Thomson was still a young man -- about 26 years sold. He lived fifty more years in Saanich and died, age 72, in August 1908. His wife Margaret, only 15 when she married him, died at 79 years of age in October 1920. The Thomson house still stands at 1189 Mount Newton Cross Road.

This grave hold two Michell children who died as infants, and other Michell family members who came to Saanich in the early days. The patriarch of the family was THOMAS MICHELL, born in Swansea, Wales, in April 1832. His father was a mechanical engineer by trade, and Thomas apprenticed as a brass-moulder and worked alongside his father and brother in that business. But Thomas, and I believe, other members of his family, came to North America and lived for a few years in Baltimore, Maryland.

From Baltimore, Thomas and his wife, Margaret Jenkins, made their way to the colony of Vancouver's Island, arriving in 1862 when he was thirty years of age. Once in Victoria the couple became the proprietors of the What Cheer House on Yates Street -- a lodging house that stood where the Dominion Hotel stands today. But Michell had come to Victoria to seek his fortune, and in spring 1863 he headed off to the Cariboo gold fields, leaving his wife in Victoria to run the lodging house.

He returned home that fall with enough gold to set up a small grocery store on Johnson Street, and next spring headed off to the Cariboo again. This time, as he was digging a pit for an outhouse, he struck a pocket of gold and returned home that fall, wealthy enough to purchase 125 acres of farmland in Saanich.

He actually purchased his land in 1868, and Margaret Michell served as the local nurse and midwife and always rode side-saddle -- even when she was delivering the farm's butter into Victoria to sell. Over the years Margaret bore sixteen children, only six of whom survived. These are two who did not-- an infant that died in 1876, and baby William who died, one month old, in 1898.

Most of the surviving boys became farmers and were early settlers in North Saanich, and one son, George Thomas Michell, attended his first Saanichton fair as an infant and never missed a year afterward -- he also served as president of the North and South Saanich Agricultural Society.

WILLIAM TURGOOSE, 11 July 1830-22 Jan. 1881
William Turgoose was born July 11, 1830, in Ancaster, Lincolnshire, and he emigrated to Illinois with the ABRAHAM POPE family and others. While he lived there he developed a horse-trading business, and when he crossed the country to California in a covered wagon, he brought his herd along with him. Turgoose arrived in Sacramento -- where he heard of the new gold rush in the Cariboo -- and, selling some of his beloved horses, he headed north to Fort Victoria.

He arrived with four horses, and worked on building the old Esquimalt Road from the Esquimalt Harbour into Victoria. When he had saved enough money he sold the last of his animals and went to the Cariboo gold fields, where he bought an interest in the old Ruby claim on Williams Creek, just west of modern-day Williams Lake.

Two years later he sold out the claim and settled in the Saanich district, purchasing Dr. Henry Tuzo's farm and groves of apple trees. Turgoose's farm consisted of five hundred acres and its northwest corner butted into the intersection of modern-day Mount Newton Road and East Saanich -- its runs south and east of that intersection all the way down to the Michell's farm (which still exists). However, Turgoose did not farm his land, but headed off to England and returned, via Illinois, to marry his sweetheart Emma Pope, daughter of ABRAHAM POPE. Turgoose settled in Saanich in 1865 and bred purebred Morgan horses and shorthorn Durham cattle. He died twenty years later, on January 22nd, 1885.

Saanichton's original name was Turgoose, and it was a rest stop on the old East Saanich Road, about where the Prairie Inn is now. However the original Prairie Inn was not on Turgoose's property, but across the road from it, and the inn was not built by Turgoose but by Henry Simpson -- a man who was probably the most prominent man in the neighbourhood next to Thomson, but who is not buried in this churchyard. (In actual fact, I learned that he was buried here, but I did not find him on the list that I was given.)

ABRAHAM POPE, d. 11 Feb. 1886, 81 years, and SARA, d. 11 Dec. 1878, Native of Lincolnshire
Abraham Pope was born July 8, 1805, in Baston, Lincolnshire. He and his wife, Sara, left England in 1853 with their eight children and three members of the WILLIAM TURGOOSE family and other friends. They were bound for the United States.

The party made the Atlantic crossing to New Orleans in 12 days and took a riverboat north, up the Mississippi to Illinois, where Pope bought property and settled down. About 1874 the senior Popes sold their farm to their son and came north to the Mount Newton Valley, to join their son-in-law WILLIAM TURGOOSE. When this church was under construction in 1862, Abraham Pope was about 57 years old; when he actually arrived in Saanich some years later, he was sixty-nine.

After living for a year or so with his daughter and son-in-law, Abraham Pope purchased 79 acres of land east of the Turgoose farm; their farmland straddled Mount Newton Cross Road and butted up to West Saanich Road. He built a house and a carpenter's shop where he constructed furniture. Four years later, in May 1878, the Pope's celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Sara died at age 76 in December of the same year; and Abraham stayed at his place for 5 more years until he finally sold out and moved in with the Turgooses. He died, aged 80, in February 1886.

According to Betty Bell (author of book, "My Fair Land", mentioned in last post), who grew up on Abraham Pope's piece of property in the early 1900's, the land at the junction of West Saanich Road and Mount Newton Cross Road was still known as "Pope's Corner." By the way, after Abraham Pope's death there was some difficulty with a transaction that involved his land, that resulted in years of litigation and a violent quarrel between two South Saanich residents. The argument was settled, after a fashion, when one man shot the other man's entire flock of chickens.

JOHN GREIG, d.1883, Pioneer
John Greig was born about 1825 in Burness, Orkney Islands, and though relatively short at 5'6" was a strong, wiry man with red hair and a fair complexion. He joined the Hudson's Bay Company in 1844 from St. Ola, Shetland Islands. He spent the winter on Hudson's Bay, then was sent across the country to the west side of the Rocky Mountains where he served at Fort Colvile, on the Columbia River north of modern-day Spokane.

In 1849 he wed Margaret Goudie, daughter of the Fort Colvile miller, and Chief Trader ALEXANDER CAULFIELD ANDERSON performed the marriage ceremony. Two years later, Greig and his wife made their way to Fort Victoria, where he purchased 30 acres of land in the Esquimalt District. He was Victoria's first lime-burner; he quarried limestone found in small deposits around Victoria, and burned it in a small kiln, producing lime both for enriching farming soil and for making whitewash.

His lime kiln was located at the end of "Lime Avenue," now Admiral's Road, on the southeast corner of the Esquimalt Indian Reserve. (There is also a Lime Bay near Spinnakers Pub that does not seem to have anything to do with Greig).

In 1862, when the church he would later be buried at was being constructed, John Greig was about 37 years old, but he was nowhere near the Mount Newton Valley. He lived on various pieces of land around Esquimalt and in the area around Four Mile House, some of which he refused to pay taxes on and the government took it back. In 1869 he purchased land on Tod Inlet, on the west side of the Saanich peninsula, and he called his farm Burness after his birthplace. Although he farmed his property, Greig was always known as a lime-burner, and he had purchased that particular piece of land because he knew it had a fine deposit of limestone on it.

Greig was also well known for his fiddle playing -- in Saanich he was in demand at local dances and gatherings, where he probably accompanied FANNY BUTLER's piano. Greig cooked supper for the men he employed to work on his farm and while they ate he gave them a glass of Scotch and played on his fiddle or reminisced about his journey across the country from York Factory to Fort Colvile. There is a story that while he travelled through what later became British Columbia -- possibly over the brigade trail from Fort Colvile to Fort Langley, he saved the lives of his compatriots when they were faced with a supposedly hostile group of Natives, by picking up his fiddle and playing it.

John Greig died at age 67 in October 1892, and his obituary remarked that "British Columbia lost one of those old timers who helped to make her what she is." Margaret Greig died well after her husband, and James Robert Anderson, son of ALEXANDER CAULFIELD ANDERSON, reported on Mrs. Greig's Fort Colvile marriage and her later death in his Memoirs: "Marriage ceremonies which I witnessed at Fort Colvile were performed by my father between two daughters of Goudy, the blacksmith; one, Margaret, to Greig, an employee, and the other, Sara, to George Mackenzie, the miller... Mr. Greig died at the close of 1914, and I attended her funeral -- sixty five years after witnessing her wedding."

Greig's sons sold the farm to the Saanich Lime Company, and eventually the Portland Cement Company, run by Robert Pim Butchart, too it over. As you can guess, John Greig's famland and lime quarry is now the world famous Butchard Gardens.

This gravestone claims that William Batchelor was born in Cheshire in 1832 or thereabouts. He was about thirty years old when the church was constructed, and died on November 7 1887, at age 55. But Batchelor did not live in Saanich-- he lived in Victoria, where he was known as Frederick Reynolds! His story is written up in the book, Feeding the Family: 100 years of Food & Drink in Victoria, by Nancy Oke & Robert Griffin.

The man Victoria society knew as Frederick Reynolds arrived in 1861, and a few years later was famous as Victoria's most colourful butcher. His business was at Yates and Douglas, in the Reynolds Building that still stand there. From Feeding the Family: "Reynolds was able to live the life he enjoyed: facing horses, wearing fine clothes, sporting a valuable gold watch... and pursuing some of the flashy ladies of the town, the same as other men, but not spending a great deal of money on them."

Batchelor/Reynolds had a secret, and it was this: he was a deserter from the United States Army! And in August 1874, his nephew, who knew his secret, arrived in Victoria from England and took over the charge of his uncle's ledgers. However, the Batchelor nephew kept such irregular books that it quickly became clear, to everyone, that he was more than a little dishonest!

From the book: "At this time Reynolds' behaviour became erratic -- he believed people were in his house and that he would be kidnapped and sent to China. He would at times appear naked at his front door. His fears increased, probably because his nephew knew his secret and threatened to reveal it."

The nephew convinced him to sign away all his possessions -- but eventually Reynolds recovered his senses and launched a court case against his nephew. The case fascinated Victoria residents for weeks, and Reynolds -- now known as Batchelor -- finally regained control of his business. He immediately sold the butcher shop and moved out to Saanich, presumably -- and here he is, buried here under one of the prettiest gravestones in the cemetery.

GEORGE STEPHEN BUTLER, d. 7 Oct. 1885, 51 y, 17th Regt., and FANNY BUTLER, 28 April 1841-20 Nov. 1920
George Stephen Butler was born in 1834 in Soberton, Hampshire, England, where he grew up. He attended Oxford University and by 1855 he was a Lieutenant in the 17th Light Infantry and fought in the Crimean War -- a conflict between the Russians and an alliance of the French, British, and Ottoman Empires that took place mostly in the area around the Black Sea.

After the War his regiment was posted to Quebec, but Butler was invalided and listed as a retired officer residing in Porchester, Hampshire, in 1862. At that time he was still a young man, only 27, and I suspect that he had already met the woman he was going to marry. His future wife would be FANNY CATHERINE BRETT.

Fanny was born April 28, 1841, in Portsea, and her father was a grocer and wine merchant who, I believe, died when she was quite young. It is possible that when she met her husband-to-be in England, she was already working as a governess.

In 1862, George Butler was no longer a soldier and had to make a living. Letters of introduction from the Colonial Office in Downing Street, London, indicate that he planned to come to the colony, and asked Governor James Douglas to put him to work. Apparently Douglas had no employment for Butler, and the then 28-year old soldier went up the Fraser River to the Cariboo gold fields, and in the next few years he made enough money to purchase his farm in Saanich.

In 1868 he married Fanny, who he had invited to come out from England. At the time of their marriage, Butler was 35 years old; and he is already actively farming the one hundred and sixty acre piece of land he purchased in the Mount Newton Valley -- though there was no house constructed on the farm yet. He and his new wife lived in the newly built schoolhouse for many years, and Fanny, who had been a governess in England, was schoolmistress of the new school established alongside St. Stephen's Church. (The school would have been located on the far side of the present parking lot and perhaps on the road that runs alongside the church property).

Fanny had been a musician in England, and her family now sent out a piano. Apparently this piano travelled all over the district in a wagon, wherever entertainment was needed-- perhaps she and JOHN GREIG, the fiddler, entertained at all the parties and dances that took place in early Saanich.

George Butler died of consumption at age 51, on October 7th 1885. After her husband's early death, Fanny remained in Saanich where she supported herself by giving piano lessons, and died at age 79 in November 1920. I am told that Fanny's well used piano is still preserved in the museum at the Saanich Pioneers' Society.

George and Fanny Butler's descendants still live here; in the 1940's the sons started Butler Brothers on their old property -- a business that began as a gravel pit but expanded into concrete and aggregate. Butler Bros. is still a very familiar name to anyone who lives in the Victoria area.

JOHN DURRANCE, 1829-1904
John Durrance was born in 1828 in Leicestershire, England. He was 18 when he and his brother, James, came to Fort Victoria. The brothers made a brief journey to California where James remained, but John returned to the Colony. In 1860 he settled on almost 400 acres of land which he named Spring Valley farm; there were no roads to that part of the peninsula, so John first saw the property he wanted to own by rowboat. (His property was south-east of JOHN GREIG's farm).

He cleared fifty acres of land by hand, then acquired a team of oxen and lived in a tent until he could build his house near the corner of what is now Wallace Drive and Durrance Road. Sometime around 1870 he married the widow, Jane Dyke, and their first child was born in 1872.

Jane's first husband was Richard Cheeseman, who came to Fort Victoria as an HBC employee and who eventually constructed the Royal Oak Inn, somewhere in the area we now call Royal Oak. Cheeseman died when his horses bolted and threw him out of the wagon, and Jane oversaw the management of the property for two years, before marrying her second husband in 1864. He died of heart trouble only a few years after the marriage, and Jane then married John Durrance, and she and her five children moved out to Spring Valley farm. Jane died in 1897, aged 50. In 1904 John Durrance was found dead in a well on his property.

John Durrance's son inherited the property after his father's death, and built his new house on the hill behind the first house. The second house still stands at 155 Durrance Road; but the only thing that remains of the senior Durrance's farm (other than the land itself) are the cherry trees planted at the corner of Wallace and Durrance Road.

DUNCAN LIDGATE, d. April 1874, 63 y, Native of Scotland, and HELEN, 1810-1889
Duncan Lidgate, father-in-law of WILLIAM THOMSON, was born on the 26th June 1814 in Pathead, west of Newton Grange and southeast of Edinburgh, Scotland -- though other descendants give me different birthplaces for this man. He married in England but his first wife died after giving birth to their child. In 1844 he married his second wife, Helen Dickson, who already had one child by a previous marriage.

Duncan Lidgate arrived at Fort Victoria in 1852 aboard the Norman Morrison -- one of the HBC's ships -- with his wife and three children including MARGARET DYER, who would eventually marry WILLIAM THOMSON. Lidgate was a skilled artisan who was hired for his abilities -- in the HBC's records he was listed as a "joiner" and millwright. But when the Lidgate family arrived in the Colony, they were disappointed by their reception -- no housing had been constructed for them and they had to live with the other new employees in large rough barns on the Craigflower farm. They were eventually housed, however, and Lidgate worked under Kenneth McKenzie and helped to construct the new grist mill on the farm.

He met WILLIAM THOMSON at Craigflower farm, and in 1853 he followed his son-in-law to be to Mount Newton Valley and cleared a site for his new home at a property now labelled 1459 Mount Newton Cross Road. Lidgate was better educated than the other men who surrounded him, but references in various journals refer to his occasional drunkeness. In fact, Lidgate appears to have gotten into a little trouble at Craigflower Farm when, in May 1856, he and two friends were arrested and thrown in jail for four days, for "shooting into Mr. McKenzie's house."

In Saanich, for the most part, Lidgate settled down to work his 60 acres as a mixed farm. He was active in his community, helping to form the North and South Saanich Agricultural Society and working to build this church. In 1862, when this building was erected, Duncan Lidgate was about 48 years old. He died fifteen years later when he was only 63 years old, in April 1874; his wife, Helen, who had served as midwife through the early years in Saanich, died age 79, in 1889. A cairn in front of their old Mount Newton Road residence, at 1459 Mount Newton Cross Road, honors this couple.

WALTER BIRNIE ANDERSON, d. 1st February 1944
Walter Birnie Anderson, born in 1856 at Cathlamet, Washington Territory, is one of the sons of ALEXANDER CAULFIELD ANDERSON, and the only son to have been buried close to his father in this churchyard. He was young when he arrived in Victoria, and only six years old when this church was under construction.

He married Emily Holloway in 1884, and the first of his children was born in Port Simpson -- presumably outside the fur trade fort that his father, ALEXANDER CAULFIELD ANDERSON, and his grandfather James Birnie, had constructed in the summer of 1834. He might already have been a policeman at Fort Simpson -- he joined the fledgling British Columbia Provincial Police and served mostly in the Comox and Courtenay area, where he daughter Mary Seton Anderson (also buried here) was born.

Walter had quite an exciting career as a policeman -- in 1893 he was called to Savary Island to investigate the murders of Jack Green and Tom Taylor who ran a store on the island. In June 1893, both Michael Manson, Justice of the Peace of Cortes Island (where I grew up), and Constable Walter Anderson were involved in another police chase and exchange of gunfire on Reid Island, where Jack Myers reportedly shot Big Jack O'Connor to death!

By the turn of the century, Walter had retired from the police force and owned the Cumberland newspaper and built houses in the town. He returned to Victoria and purchased or built a house in Oak Bay, on Roslyn Avenue almost immediately behind the shopping centre. Walter and his older, James, used to meet at that house regularly, and Walter's son relayed stories of how the two elderly brothers would laugh as they remembered all the old stories they had grown up with.

Walter is important to Saanich historians in that he wrote about the early history of North Saanich when he lived here with his father. These stories were published in the Colonist newspaper under the heading, "Chronicles of Old North Saanich," and they tell many stories of his early life with his father.

I think that Walter would have been a wonderful man to know, but the family was so disconnected that my mother, who as a child lived only a few miles northwest of the church, never knew she had an uncle Walter. But if you look here, my mother's older sister in buried in Walter's plot. Claire was born three years before my mother was born, and brought home to die.

We are now standing in front of the grave of my great grandfather, ALEXANDER CAULFIELD ANDERSON, and his wife, Betsy. The gravestone says Eliza, but the Birnie family Bible has her name as Betsy and she is also listed in the 1850 Wahkiakum Census as Betsy Anderson. She was a simple country girl, born into the fur trade, and though Anderson gave her a more sophisticated name, suitable for the wife of a fur trade gentleman, it never took.

Betsy was born at the Hudson's Bay Company post of Spokane House in 1822, and at the time this church was constructed, she was forty years old. It is difficult to impossible to tell you any stories about her because few of them were recorded, and that is typical of the fur trade and, perhaps, of early pioneer life as well.

However, her son Walter wrote one or two stories that show what kind of woman Betsy was. Here is one of them, from "Chronicles of Old North Saanich," the Daily Colonist, June 6, 1937: "One of the older [Native] women made a practice of calling every week with fish, cockles, etc., thus keeping us supplied with a welcome change of food. We all got to be quite fond of [her], who in turn seemed to think the world of mother and the rest of us.

"In the course of time the old woman became stricken with partial paralysis and was unable to walk. We all missed her greatly, and she was often visited with bits of old clothing and a little "whiteman's food." One day, about a year after she became bedridden... she crawled up to mother's feet [from the Native village] and made her understand that she had come to her for protection, as she was afraid that her people were going to let her die from starvation... She was fed and made as comfortable as possible... Shortly afterwards some men of the tribe appeared on the scene... A lecture was delivered to the braves and they were strongly enjoined to take all possible care of the old woman. This they promised to do and carried her away, she crying as they did so. We never saw her again, as she died shortly after."

Betsy was able to deliver a lecture to the Native men because she was Native herself. Her probable grandfather was the [French-Canadian or Metis] Joseph Beaulieu who came across the mountains with explorer David Thompson in1807, and her grandmother was Cree. In this very English community she would have been considered an Indian. But when Betsy Anderson died in 1872, the newspaper reported that the service at St. Stephens was attended "by the family and many friends. No recent event has so saddened the people of Saanich as the demise of this estimable wife and mother, and Mr. Anderson and his children have the entire sympathy of the community."

Born in 1814, Alexander Caulfield Anderson was 48 years old when he helped to clear land to build this church. He was a fur trader, and had joined the Hudson's Bay Company in 1831, serving at various posts on the Northwest coast and at Fraser's Lake. He spent many years in charge at Fort Alexandria, on the Fraser River north of modern-day Williams Lake. He is best known for the four explorations he made between Kamloops and Fort Langley in 1846 and 1847 -- what most people today don't realize is that those four explorations resulted in the construction of the new brigade trail over the Coquihalla mountain range that was the first highway from the coast into the interior of what later became British Columbia.

In 1854, Anderson retired from the fur trade and settled on the Columbia River west of Fort Vancouver. He moved north to Fort Victoria in 1858, because of the constant, grating American animus against anyone of British ancestry. But in Victoria he faced the same problem (as did all the fur traders), and he lost his government job in 1859.

Anderson retired to work his farm in North Saanich -- he and five other fur traders had invested in more than 1,600 acres of farmland, and their combined properties stretched all the way across the Peninsula from Union Bay (modern-day Pat Bay) to Tseyum Harbour, more or less along the line of Wain Road.

In the fall of 1861, Anderson brought a herd of 60 cattle north from his father-in-law's property on the Columbia River, and put them out to pasture on the grasslands of his farm. He also continued to run the shipping business that he owned, in partnership with the Lowe brothers, Thomas and John. But the winter of 1861-62 blew in with freezing temperatures that froze the Fraser River to its mouth, and Anderson lost his shipping business to his wealthier American competitors.

The early winter also brought deep snow that buried his North Saanich farmlands until spring, and no farmer in the area was well enough established to have grown hay. Cattle do not forage under snow for feed, and Walter Anderson recorded that "the poor cattle went moaning about the Wintry plains unable to paw any sustenance from under the frozen snow. Willows and other brush was cut to yield a scanty fare, and the end of March found us with a bare dozen of cows out of a herd of about sixty."

So, in the spring of 1862, when this church was being constructed, Anderson was in the middle of a financial crisis of epic proportions. It was about this time he sold his Victoria property and moved to his new house in Saanich, and began to seriously farm his land. In later years, his son, Alexander, did most of the farming and his daughter, Rose, ruled the household with an iron fist -- Walter described her as "fearsome!"

Writing provided another source of potential income for Anderson, and he wrote most of his many manuscripts at his house in Saanich. He also drew his maps there -- there are fourteen Anderson maps in the BC Archives, including some early maps of the Saanich district. A copy of a map that shows all the properties these early settlers farmed is held in the Sidney Museum and Archives.

In 1871, the struggling Colony of British Columbia joined Canada and the Dominion asked for representatives to the House of Commons. Anderson threw his hat into the ring, but one of his competitors was the local brewer -- an affable Irishman named Arthur Bunster. The election took place in Henry Wain's North Saanich roadhouse, with Anderson's 10 year old son, Walter, acting as returning officer. On Election Day, Arthur Bunster distributed free beer outside the voting hall, and Anderson watched as the tide of voters turned against him.

At last, one of his strongest supporters entered the hall to cast his vote for Bunster. Anderson rose to his feet and, looking the man sternly in the eye, said, "And you, too, Mr. Blank." -- Young Walter wrote: "I had never properly grasped the significance of Caesar's dying reproachful question until that moment. Well, the election was over, and Bunster's beer won the day."

For twenty years Anderson led a simple life as a poverty-stricken gentleman farmer in North Saanich, struggling to make a living. He continued to represent his Saanich neighbours in Victoria, arguing for improvements to the roads and better bridges. He was the Dominion representative for the Indian Reserve Commission and the Dominion Fisheries Commissioner, and travelled up and down the coast in that latter position, in particular.

But at last he was forced to sell the last of his farmland and move into Victoria, where he died in May 1884. Anderson's obituary read: "Another pioneer has crossed the dark river and joined the Great Majority on the other side. Alexander Caufield Anderson, who died yesterday afternoon at 3 1/2 o'clock, after a brief illness, was one of the most intellectual and valued pioneer citizens of the province. Born in Calcutta on the 10th of March, 1814, he was consequently in his 71st year at the time of his death."

His children buried him with his wife in this cemetery. In August his son, James, arranged a stone be cut for his parents' grave; almost a year after his father's death he watched as the tall stone marker was placed on the grave.

And so, we have a varied group of people buried in the South Saanich cemetery -- some who came from the fur trade, and some who gained their wealth from gold panning in the Cariboo. Farming proved to be the primary event that occurred in early Saanich, and the majority of the persons who lived here were traditional farmers (I have just learned that we had a tobacco farmer in Saanich, and so not everyone was a traditional farmer!)

For the most part,the one thing that all these early settlers had in common was their church, which some had built with their own hands. It is one hundred and fifty years since this church was constructed, and it is in a fight for its life. The Anglican Diocese of British Columbia is planning to divest itself of ten small Vancouver Island churches, and St. Stephens was one of them. If they go ahead with their plans, St. Stephens could vanish!

However, the congregation of St. Stephens church is determined to prevent this from happening, and so the little church, that brought all these interesting early settlers together, will remain open.


  1. I live in Vancouver and so I am unable to attend your Island events, but I wanted you to know I'm just starting to read your book and am thoroughly enjoying it! The impetus for my interest lies in the "First Brigade Trail" hike near the old Alexandria Lodge: for five years now I have been taking History students on hikes up the trail to Lake Mountain and along the bluffs above Black Canyon as part of our study of geography, First Nations history, the NWC/HBC fur trade in the province, and the Cariboo Gold Rush.

    One question for you: I keep reading about the Douglas Portage - the one that you write about in your book that extends north from Yale around the trecherous section of the Canyon and back to the Fraser near Spuzzum - do we know the exact route of that portage? Is it a trail one could hike today presumably near Mount Lincoln and the Spirit Caves?

    1. I will be speaking in Burnaby in May, in front of the Burnaby Historical Society.
      As far as I know, the Douglas Portage is buried under the current highway north from Yale, although bits of it might remain. I have an early drawing of the portage but its hard to determine exactly where it ran. Some historical geographers read my blog postings -- maybe they will have information I don't have???? Michael????