We are a non-profit society, dedicated to the preservation of the historical records of the Saanich Peninsula. We operate entirely by volunteer help and are supported by donations for which we can give receipts for tax purposes. We welcome new members interested in the many facets of archival and museum historical collecting.
The name Saanich means fair land. The early pioneers came to settle on this land, growing mainly food crops for both themselves and their livestock; although for a short time there was also a thriving Hops growing industry. The first settler on the Peninsula has long been said to be Angus McPhail , followed by his friend William Thomson. We do know that it was the late 1840s and early 1850s before any of the area north of Victoria began to be settled. Angus McPhail arrived in 1854 and William Thomson in 1855. In 1852, the area known as North Saanich was purchased from the Natives for the grand sum of 109 pounds, 7 shillings, 6 pence and the South Saanich area for 41 pounds, 13 shillings, 4 pence. This works out to approximately one cent per acre!
There is often confusion when we talk about Saanich as the name appears in more than one location but not necessarily designating the same area. The area originally included North & South Saanich and the Lake District (Elk Lake area). In 1906 a municipality, known as Saanich, was incorporated and included the South Saanich (but not North Saanich or Sidney) area. That municipality was soon divided into seven Wards with the former South Saanich district becoming Ward Six. Finally in 1950, Ward Six seceded from Saanich to form the Municipality of Central Saanich. So today, if you are travelling north on highway 17 from Victoria you will pass through Saanich, Central Saanich, North Saanich and possibly Sidney.
The society was founded in 1870, flourishing for a few years and then disappearing. On November 14, 1922 a social to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Mr. and Mrs W. Richardson (Polly and “old Bill”) was held in the Temperance Hall. It was a wonderful gathering of neighbours and from it evolved the nucleus of the current Pioneers Society. Meetings were held in the homes of various members, but they wanted a home of their own where the society could socialize and at the same time store the memorabilia the members thought should be saved for posterity. From that came the present cabin which was built in 1933 with the first log being rolled into place by Dr. Simon F. Tolmie on Feb. 8. The hauling of logs and construction of the building was freely given by the Pioneers and their descendants and it was finished and formally opened July 1, 1933.
We are now an archives and museum housing collections from the pioneer families, both textual and in artifact form. We have a simulated pioneer kitchen; a handicraft corner displaying women's beautiful handwork, as well as ongoing and changing displays covering many aspects of local history. There is a library for members, with a wide variety of books for loan. There is also a good collection of First Nations artifacts and our verandah shows off a display of larger implements and domestic paraphernalia. We are fortunate to have a very hard working archival group that is putting information on computer for preservation and these records are available to the public upon request.