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Pioneer Settlers of Cowichan

The Story of Sam Handy

by N.P. Dougan

Cowichan Leader December-16-1948.

(As told to the writer, by his daughter, Mrs. Rebecca Carlson, Shawnigan Lake.)

Mr. Handy was of Irish birth and emigrated with his father to California where he worked for a time in the gold mines, before coming to B.C.

He was employed with the Royal Engineers at Sapperton. We find him next in Camoosin (the place of running water) or Victoria as it was soon to be called. In the nascent city he found a fruitful field of employment, for not a single wharf existed and he became a builder of wharves and bridges; and constructed also the old Victoria gas works factory.

Coming to Mill Bay in 1870 he acquired by pre-emption 160 acres of fine waterfront land, an important part of which is to-day the site of Queen Alexandra Solarium. On the spot where the Solaruim stands he built his house which was of considerable proportions with an upper and lower story.

Soon after settling he married the young widow, Amelia, daughter of Francis-Xavier Vouterer, with two little children. He settled down and cleared his farm, stocking it with a herd of cattle, and I suspect, although details are lacking, that he also found employment in Sayward's Mill.

He had two or more yoke of oxen and at a later date his son Sam used to hire these out to the small loggers of the day, generally going with them himself as teamster.

Eight Children

On his Mill Bay farm under pioneer conditions, Sam Handy, sen., raised his family, two sons, Sam jun., and Walter, and six daughters, Amelia (named after her mother) Susan, Elizabeth, Ellen, Rebecca and Florence.

In the earlier days, there was no public school at Mill Bay; but there was some sort of instruction for the children conducted by the Roman Catholic priests near Sayward's Mill. However, Susan, Amelia and Elizabeth were educated by the Sisters of St. Ann, Tzouhalem; and Ellen, Rebecca, Florence and Walter received their education in the old Mill Bay School whose site was about one quarter mile north of the present school under schoolmaster Jas. A. Hoy.

Mrs. Handy had only the French tongue and the father also spoke French in the home and when the children went to school they knew very few English words and had to learn to speak it in school. "Hoy was the only teacher I ever went to," says Mrs. Carlson, "and I liked him very well."

At this time the road did not extend beyond St Francis Xavier Church, but there was a sleigh track as far as the sawmill. The girls early learned how to be practical and helpful; they could sail a boat and expertly troll for salmon. They used to row a boat to Cowichan Bay and buy their supplies at Ordano's Store.

Attractive Daughters

It was a far cry to abbreviated skirts, showing shapely legs, permanents and lipstick; but the girls, could make all their own dresses and could apparel themsleves with that chic inherited from their French forefathers. They appear to have been pretty and desirable as well as practical for they all married young--Mrs Carlson (Rebecca) when she was 16.

Amelia became Mrs. Billy Rivers, who owned all the land adjacent to Cherry Point beach. Susan became the wife of Johnnie Greig, a pioneer settler's son and Elizabeth became Mrs. Frank La Fortune; Ellen, Mrs. Dykes, Rebecca, as we have seen, became Mrs Carlson and Florence, the youngest, married Billy Cox, a logger.

Mrs. Handy died when Rebecca was 13 and then she had to leave school and assist in the home. The mother was laid to rest in St. Xavier Church cemetery.

When Sam Handy, the father, was............lived there till he was 80 years of age, when he returned to Shawnigan Lake and lived with Rebecca until he died at the 89 years of age; the last year and a half of his life he was completely blind. He is buried in the First United Church cemetery, at Mill Bay.

Baptized In Stone Church

Father Peter Rondeault came to his Cowichan Mission in 1858, leaving Victoria with a sack of flour on his back; with his breviary and a gun, tramping the 12 miles to Saanich and then paddling a canoe to his Indian flock in the Tzouhalem mountains. He built his stone church on the Comiaken Hill, overlooking Cowichan Bay which he opened for service in 1870.

Here, in 1878, when she was a baby in her mother's arms, Mrs. Carlson was baptized by the reverend father, the family going there by rowboat from Mill Bay. The ceremony was recorded in French by Fr. Rondeault, and has been recently transcribed for Mrs. Carlson by the Rev. L.D. LeClair.

Mrs. Carlson has three daughters Maud (Mrs. Griffin), Ann (Mrs. Samuelson), Polly (Mrs. McAllister) and one son, Peter, who lives at Cliffside, Shawnigan Lake.

One grandson, Henry Monk, was killed overseas in the explosion of an ammunition dump; and Denis Roberston, another grandson, gave his life overseas in the war.

*This article has been provided courtesy of the Cowichan News Leader & reproduced here with their permission.


John Greig: he fiddled while the limestone burned

A continuing series on the pioneers of the peninsula


Beachcomber Wednesday January-28-1998 Page 7

One of the important industries in early Victoria was lime-burning.

The first settlers quickly discovered numerous small deposits of limestone in the vicinity of Victoria, and by quarrying these deposits and burning the limestone in small kilns, they were able to produce lime both for the Hudson's Bay Company and their own use.

The lime was used for three main purposes: making mortar for construction, reducing the acidity of soil for agriculuture, and making whitewash. The first known limeburner in the vicinity of Victoria, was John Greig.

John Greig was born about 1825 in Burness, Orkney Islands. Nothing is known of his early life. Greig was described as being 5'6" tall, wiry, with red hair and a fair complexion.

He joined the Hudson's Bay Company in 1844 at St. Ola, on a five year indenture. After arriving at York Factory, he apparently spent the winter "at one of the northern fort,." Fort Churchill, according to one account.

Family members relate that while he was there "he learned to speak French" while conversing with his fellow workers, who were French Canadians. It is also related that he made a violin, and learned to play it by the spring of the following year.

Greig was then sent to the Columbia Department of the HBC, by means of the "Overland Express" whick took from three to four months of "exceedingly hard travel." He was then sent to Fort Colville where he was employed as a laborer from June 1846 to 1851.

Completing his indenture with the HBC in 1851, John Greig mad his way to Fort Victoria on Vancouver Island, where he carried on transactions with Company until June 1853.

The early HBC land records reveal that he purchased 30 acres of land in Esquilmalt District on Dec. 15, 1851, thereby being one of the first land owners on the Island. Other records also dated in the early 1850s record Greig acquiring land at different times in Esquimalt District. It is questionable whether or not they refer to the same acreage.

Where Greig got his knowledge of lime-burning is not known, but it is most likely that he learned about it before he joined the HBC. It is believed that Greig operated the lime kiln of Craigflower Farm in 1853 to 1854. Tha actual kiln was located at the end of "Lime Avenue" (now Admirals road) on the southeast corner of the Esquimalt Indian Reserve and adjacent to a limestone deposit.

In 1849, Chief Trader Alexander C. Anderson officiated at the marriage of John Greig to Margaret, the daughter of James Goudie and his Native wife Catherine at Fort Victoria. James Goudie was a blacksmith and a miller, who had been at Fort Colville when Greig was there, and no doubt the two worked together at times.

By 1854 John Greig had acquired 122 acres, (Sections 6 and 103) in Esquimalt District. A map enclosed in a letter from John Greig to the colonial secretary, dated Feb. 29, 1864, has the notation "Good Limestone" next to a small rectangle located on the eastern side of Secion 6 and midway between Thetis Lake and Esquimalt harbor.

The limestone from this deposit was probably burned in the small lime kiln with two draw holes located on the east side of Rowe stream (now Millstream) just north of Parson's Bridge (Six Mile Bridge).

The census of Vancouver Island taken by James Douglas on Dec. 31, 1854, interestingly lists John Greig as the owner of property valued at more than £20, and gives the following information; that there was a dwelling house, in which two adults (John and Margaret) and one child (John Jr., their first child) lived. That he had improved five acres of land, which had £10 of farming implements and machinery on it.

He had eight horses, five milch cows, four working oxen, and five other kinds of cattle. He also recorded having nine swine and 20 poultry. As a farmer he seems to have performed well, managing to harvest 40 bushels of wheat, 20 bushels of peas, and 100 bushels of potatoes.

John and Margaret would have a large family of 10 children: John, Robert, Margaret, James, Mary, Amelia, Tom, William, George, Frank, Emily, and Donald.

Greig apparently burnt lime on his property until it was sold by the sheriff for taxes to Dr. H.A. Tuzo on July. 7, 1865. Greig was plainly upset with the Lands Department just previously, when he wrote to them on Feb. 28, 1864, stating that they deprived him of "a part of this land, and that part (being) the only good farming land in the section." Possibly, in protest, he refused to pay his taxes, and finally gave up his holdings.

Greig moved to Four Mile House, near Craigflower, where he worked as a lime-burner, and was probably operating the lime kiln located south of the Old Island Highway near the junction of Helmcken road.

After scouting around the vicinity of Victoria for limestone deposits, he came upon a good source at Tod Inlet, in the South Saanich District. The land was owned by Captain Thomas Pritchard, who had previously acquired it from Bishop George Hills.

For $225, Greig purchased the land, a total of 222 acres, (Sections 13 and 14, Range 2 West) on Aug. 3, 1869. Moving his family there soon after, he built a log cabin and called the place Burness, after the place of his birth.

Constructing a lime kiln, he started quarrying the limestone, to burn. Although all the area directories and voter lists from 1871 to the time of his death, state that his profession was "that of a farmer," (and so he was,) he was essentially known for his limeburning.

On March 15, 1884, Greig transferred the property to his sons William and James. He would later humorously relate how he sold his property for "$10 and a Stetson Hat."

John Greig was well-known for his fiddle playing, and "was in demand at local dances and social gatherings."

John Thomson, a son of William Thomson, and a former employee of Greig's "had nothing but praise for the old pioneer. He cooked for the men and in the evening when he would bring out a bottle of scotch whiskey--give each one (of the men working for him) a drink, and then play on his violin (fiddle), much to the enjoyment of the men. When he wasn't playing his violin, he would reminisce (about) his journey overland from Eastern Canada."

"A story circulated at one time that John Greig was illiterate," relates his great-granddaughter, Priscilla Bethell. "This idea stemmed from the fact that one evening while entertaining at a dance someone handed him a sheet of music. He promptly propped it up on a chair and continued playing. It was discovered later that the sheet music was upside dow. John Greig played entirely by ear and therefore the sheet music meant nothing to him."

"From stories handed down from friends and relations," she continues, "I've gleaned some insight to his character. He was very humerous, liked his "nip', avid reader of his Bible, and very religious."

"He was known for many years as "Greig, the Fiddler.' "reported the Saanich Peninsula and the Island Review in 1951. "His ability to play the violin proved more than a pleasant accomplishment on one occasion. It was believed to have saved his life when passing through interior of the province, many years ago. A report stated that he and a group of his fellows met with a body of hostile Indians. The aborigines were disposed to deal with the white invaders in a summary manner when John Greig commenced to play his fiddle. The savage Indians were so taken with the music that they did not only release their prisoners, but supplied them with a number of gifts."

John Greig died at the age of 67 on Oct. 14, 1892, and was interred at St. Stephen's Churchyard cemetery. His obituary in the Daily Colonist remarked concerning his passing the "British Columbia lost one of those old timers who helped to make her what she is."

Margaret Greig died at the age of 84 on Dec. 30, 1914 at St. Joseph's Hospital in Victoria. Greig Avenue in Brentwood and Greig Island lying east of Sidney are named after John Greig.

William and James Greig, subsequently sold the Tod Inlet property, and it was acquired by the Saanich Lime Company in 1890 under the management of Joseph Wrigleworth. In 1904, the Vancouver Portland Cement Company under the control and direction of R.P. Butchart took over. The quarry was subsequently converted into Buthchart Gardens, the well-known tourist attraction of the peninsula.

Priscilla Bethell relates that whenever John Greig homesteaded, he always planted fruit trees, mostly apple. "I saw the old trees at Seymour Hill a few years ago. Freeman King found them while scouting in Thetis Park. My great aunt Emily, who was born at Tod Inlet, met Mrs. Butchart one time, while visiting the gardens. She showed Mrs. Butchart the locaton of the old homestead & orchard. Another cabin was built off Greig Avenue. This structure was used as a hunting lodge by William Greig and his brothers."

*Note: The writer wishes to thank Christopher Hanna for information stemming from his expertise in the practice of lime burning in colonial Vancouver Island days.

*This article has been provided courtesy of the Beachcomber. Please note this paper is no longer in print.

*Photo of Margaret Goudie provided courtesy of the Saanich Pioneers' Society.

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