History of the Saanich Penninsula Since the Last Ice Age
About 14,000 years ago, the Saanich Peninsula emerged from under the thick glaciers of the last Ice Age. As the ice melted and vegetation returned to the barren landscape, herds of large mammals – including now-extinct mammoths and giant bison – roamed the developing grasslands. Soon the First People arrived in the region. For thousands of years the Coast Salish people of the WSÁNEC (Saanich) First Nation thrived on the Saanich Peninsula including at the historic village site of STÁUTW (Tsawout).
Following establishment of HBC Fort Victoria in the 1840s everything changed as the first Europeans began to set down roots on the Saanich Peninsula in the beautiful Mount Newton Valley just west of present-day Saanichton. In 1854, Andrew MacPhail built his cabin on what is now Woodwyn Farm. William Thomson soon followed, building his first permanent house at Bannockburn, today a beautiful heritage home. More Europeans settled in Valley and up the slopes into Saanichton, establishing a thriving farming community. By 1859, settler Henry Simpson built the original Prairie Tavern on a site adjacent to the current Prairie Inn (1893). In 1862, St Stephen’s Church was built in the Valley, and two years later, the first school on the Saanich Peninsula was established at what is now Ravenhill Farm. Following its first year in North Saanich, the historic Saanich Fair was held at the site of the original school in the Valley before permanently moving into Saanichton in the 1870s, where it operated for 120 years until 1992, when it moved to its current site on Stelly’s Cross Road. Saanichton was also a railway centre. The Victoria and Sidney Railway (V&S) steamed through Saanichton from Victoria on its way to Sidney, from 1894 to 1919. The BC Electric Railway ran passenger service along Wallace Drive, beginning in 1912 and continuing operations into the 1920s.
You can learn more about the colourful history of Saanichton with a visit to the Log Cabin Museum (managed by the Saanich Pioneer Society), located in Saanichton Green.
If you have any photos or stories to share, please contact us. Thanks to the following for photos and stories contributed: Crawford Family, John Newman Estate, Spelt Family, Saanich Pioneer Society.Henry