Craigflower Country: A History of View Royal, 1850-1950

Craigflower Country: A History of View Royal, 1850-1950

Maureen Duffus

Reviewed by Deidre Simmons

Craigflower country was the area of greater Victoria between the waters of the Gorge waterway and Esquimalt harbour. Today it is within the town of View Royal, to the northwest of the city. Craigflower was the name of the Puget’s Sound Agricultural Company farm established by Governor James Douglas in 1853 to provide fresh farm produce to the nearby Hudson's Bay Company post at Fort Victoria. It also helped provision the naval establishment at Esquimalt. It was one of three farms (and later four) operated by the company in the area. Craigflower was successfully farmed from 1853-66 by Kenneth McKenzie, twenty-two farm labourers, and their families, who arrived together from Scotland on the Norman Morison under five-year contracts with the company. With the fur trade fading and competition for land rights from the United States, the HBC was being directed by the colonial office in England to encourage permanent settlement on the lands it had been granted on Vancouver Island. Craigflower Manor and Schoolhouse are now heritage sites managed by the Heritage Branch of the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations.

The “Stories and Reminiscences” section of Craigflower Country provides personal glimpses of the farms, livestock, cottages, characters, and First Nations people of the area -- mostly from the first half of the twentieth century. Some of the storytellers were descendants of the first settlers, and some spent idyllic summer vacations with relatives and grandparents; others stayed and attended Craigflower School. The school bus, for some, was the milk van.

A bit of a mystery to some Victorians is the site of the first sawmill established by the HBC in 1847 at the mouth of what was then called Rowe Stream. It is clearly marked on one of several helpful maps included in the text. The stream flowing into the northwest end of Esquimalt Harbour is now called Millstream, but the saw mill, with its later addition of a flour mill, has long since disappeared into the coastal rainforest. It was vital until 1860, with lumber being shipped from Esquimalt harbour to Victoria and California. The area where the mill was located was also accessed by the trail that ran inland to Victoria and later became the Island Highway. A bridge was built over the “stream” near the mill by one of the millwrights, who also built a hotel at the location. Parson’s Hotel became well known as a way station and a pub, the oldest in the province: Six Mile Pub. Another pub, closer to Craigflower and near the centre of town of View Royal, was the Four Mile Pub, which started life as a coaching stop. Both are still in operation to provide focal points for visits to the area.

Maureen Duffus prepared the first edition of Craigflower Country in 1993 to acknowledge the upcoming sesquicentennial of the purchase of land by Douglas by treaty with the Songhees First Nations in 1850. The second edition is enhanced with additional photographs, better quality paper, and updates to the text and format. Her research and personal memories add to the reminiscences of current and former residents to provide a comprehensive exploration of a residential area that built up along the rocky shoreline of Esquimalt Harbour and on either side of the highway, which for many years was the only access to up-Island. Local histories such as the ones Duffus has written (A Most Unusual Colony: Vancouver Island, 1849-1860; Old Langford: An Illustrated History, 1850-1950, and Beyond the Blue Bridge: Stories from Esquimalt) provide the reader with an intimate and educational exploration of familiar territory.

Craigflower Country: A History of View Royal, 1850-1950
By Maureen Duffus 
First published by View Royal Historical Society, 1993; Victoria: Town and Gown Press, 2011. 198 pp, $27.95 paper

 

BC Studies 180 (Winter 2013/14)