Welcome to the historic St. Stephens Church and the South Saanich cemetery -- St. Stephens is the oldest church in British Columbia used continually as a place of worship since its construction.
In February 1852, Governor James Douglas purchased some 18,000 acres of land from the Coast Salish people who lived on the Saanich peninsula.
This land was marked off in one hundred acre allotments and sold to settlers -- these two strips of land, one on either side of Mount Newton, would become what the settlers called North and South Saanich.
It must have been a hard life for the first settlers as they carved a homestead from the wilderness, and it took three or so years before these farmers became 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 the Right Reverend George Hills, Bishop of British Columbia, for the purpose of building a church and a school.
If anyone needs more information about the construction and history of this little church, they should purchase the book, Symbols of Faith; the Story of Saint Stephen's Church, Saanichton, British Columbia, by Gwen and Michael Wilkey, published by West Saanich AeroGraphic Publications, Pat Bay, 1995.
You might obtain this book through the St. Stephens Church itself.
The above photograph is of Block A (front), and the three graves directly under the large tree in the back of this photograph are those of the DURRANCE family.
The graves at the front of this section are those of some of the THOMSON family. The photographer is standing on the steps of the church looking north.
This next photograph is of the northern half of Block A (back), and the people buried in this section of the cemetery are GEORGE STEPHEN BUTLER and wife, WILLIAM BATCHELOR, owner of Batchelor's Market (general store) in Victoria, and fur-trader JOHN GREIG, who was one of the men who served under Alexander Caulfield Anderson at Fort Colvile.
I will have lots more information to add to John Greig's story, actually.
If you want more information on William Batchelor, you could purchase Feeding the Family: 100 years of Food & Drink in Victoria, by Nancy Oke and Robert Griffin, Royal BC Museum, 2011 -- but wait; I will tell you the story in a later posting!
This is Block B of the cemetery, where many of the first settlers are buried. William THOMSON and his wife, Margaret, are here; as are some members of Thomas and Margaret MICHELL's family; William TURGOOSE and his wife, Emma; Emma's father Abraham POPE and his wife, Sara; and Duncan LIDGATE and his wife, Helen. Alexander Caulfield ANDERSON and his wife, Betsy Birnie, are also buried in this section of the old cemetery.
This year the old church is celebrating its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary, but when the first settlers arrived, this area was wilderness.
As there were no sawmills in the area at the time, redwood timber was ordered from California and hauled over the Native trail from Fort Victoria to the Mount Newton valley by 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.
The building was finished five months after the timber arrived, and the church held its first service and dedication on June 3rd, 1862, with the 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.
After George Hills, Bishop of Columbia, performed the consecration of the South Saanich church on October 8th, 1868, he report 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."
On January 7th, 1971, St. Stephen's Church was honoured when Commander of the Maritime Forces Pacific, Admiral R. H. Leir, and the officers of the Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, attended a service to lay away a white ensign and a current Canadian Forces flag for the first time in a church in Canada.
The gold crown on the flagstaff was one of the last made in the naval workshops at Esquimalt.
There is one more thing that is unique about this church -- whenever there is someone at the church-offices at the front of the church property, this church door is left open and anyone can come in to explore or to worship.
I am giving a talk in this churchyard on April 1st and it will last about an hour or so -- I presume I will need to talk about three quarters of an hour as wandering through the churchyard will take up a certain amount of time.
Obviously, there are some people I will not have time to talk about.
Some of these are:
JAMES CAMP, buried in Block A, Plot 38, Stone reading "d. 23 August 1886, 75 years old."
James Camp was born in Tavistock, Gloucestershire, in 1810, and he and his son, John, left England for the colony when James' wife died.
The gold records show that the Camps purchased a mining licence on May 9th, 1864, and his obituary records that he trundled a wheelbarrow loaded with 400 pounds of gear from Yale up the old Cariboo Road to the goldfields.
Father and son remained in the Cariboo goldfields for several years, and later worked in the Hastings mills (early Vancouver) or were employed in the Dewdney survey of the Canadian Pacific Railway line.
In 1877, the Camps took over the proprietorship of the Royal Oak Hotel and ran it until James' death in 1886.
John stayed in the area after his father's death, running the original Prairie Inn for many years.
John and his wife, Annie, are buried next to John's father in this cemetery.
JOHN DYER, buried in Block A, Plot 16, Stone reading died 5th April 1896, 65y."
He was born in Devonshire in 1830, and was a farmer whose house still stands at 5930 Patricia Bay Highway; it is one of the oldest farmhouses on the peninsula.
To support his family, John chopped wood and delivered it into Victoria -- quite a challenge for anyone travelling over these early roads.
HUGH MCKENZIE, buried beside his wife in Block B, Plot 175, Stone "1810-1889," and Mary Anne, Block B, Plot 176, Stone "d. 24 April 1883, 55y., a Native of NS."
Hugh McKenzie was born in 1810 in West River, Nova Scotia -- his wife Mary Anne was born about 1828, also in Nova Scotia.
In 1877, Alexander, their son, purchased a house for his parents and brought them out to Saanich, where either Hugh McKenzie or his son, Alexander, ran a boarding house on East Saanich Road near the Turgoose farm.
Later Alexander married Helen Thomson, eldest daughter of William and Margaret Thompson, on Christmas Day 1800 -- and so the McKenzie's are related to all the major families who lived and farmed in the Mount Newton valley.
But the first settler in this neighbourhood was a HBC employee named Angus or Aeneas MCPHAIL.
He does not appear to be buried in this cemetery, but as first settler I think he deserves some mention.
Angus was born on the Isle of Lewis, the largest of the island in the Outer Hebrides.
He signed on with the Hudson's Bay Company in 1837 as a labourer and sailed from Stromness to York Factory on the HBC ship, Prince Rupert.
In 1838 he was a labourer at Fort Langley on the Fraser River, and after 1846 is listed as a Dairyman at Fort Victoria.
By 1855 he is listed under the fort's "Sundry Accounts" and he already owned land in the Mount Newton Valley where is the first settler -- or at least the first to purchase land there.
If you want more information about the early settlers in Saanich, you can find Betty Bell's book, The Fair Land: Saanich, published by Sono Nis Press in 1982.
It is quite an enjoyable to read, and I learned a little more of my family history, too.
On the map in the middle of the book is shown my grand-father's property -- my sister and I knew from my mother that the first few years of her life were spent in a house or cabin on the shoreline of the Saanich Peninsula, close to Alexander Caulfield Anderson's farm on Wain Road.
My grandfather's residence is marked in this book, and there is a lot of other information, too, that we were unaware of.
"A mile or so north of Mount Newton Bay," Betty Bell wrote, "a small log cabin owned by the Anderson family had been tucked away, some years before our arrival, down in the deep woods.
"Arthur [Beattie] Anderson originally bought a large tract of land, mostly waterfront, and gradually sold various parcels of it to people wishing to erect small summer cottages.
"This included one plot to his own father-in-law.
"Both Mr. and Mrs. Anderson were members of old-time Saanich families of prominence, he being the son of the early settler, A.C. Anderson -- widely known as a Hudson's Bay Chief Trader -- and she being the elder daughter, Emily, of the Reverend Mr. Christmas, pastor at St. Stephen's Anglican Church from 1890 to 1901.
"He was universally loved and, not surprisingly, always spoken of as "Father Christmas.""
Ah, the innocence of those times....