PROSPECT LAKE HERITAGE SOCIETY
The purposes of the society are: to identify, preserve and record the significant heritage stories of Prospect Lake; and to promote the protection of heritage sites in the Prospect Lake district.
The heritage society meets on the last Monday of each month, location to be announced. If you would like to be on our email list, contact email@example.com
See the next page, “Heritage: Book” for information about Prospect Lake: Reflections A Photographic Tribute of Significant Heritage Stories. The book is for sale at $50 and can be ordered at the above email address.
Feb 20/ 2020: David Gray documentaries and Gwen Curry book reading.
Go to our ‘Activities’ Page to see some photos of this event.
Images of Place – Community Mapping of the Tod Creek Watershed
The Tod Creek Watershed community mapping project will be organized by the Prospect Lake Heritage Society in partnership with the Evergreen Uncover Your Creeks program. The purpose of the event is to capture, through community memories and images, the changes to the landscape since settlement, agriculture and urbanization.
Working with community mapping expert Ken Josephson, the Prospect Lake Community Association, the Friends of Tod Creek Watershed and the Royal Oak Historical Society.
We will hold a one day workshop scheduled for Saturday March 28, 2015.
The workshop will bring together past and present residents of all ages to identify the unique and irreplaceable features of our community. As a result of the activities we will produce images and mapping that will record the community’s memory and provide information for future directions in the community. Our results will be made available though printed and web based sources specifically the traditional pictorial map and as a part of the CRD community mapping website.
The Prospect Lake Heritage Society was formed in 2010 with the following mission:
To identify and record significant heritage stories of Prospect Lake and to promote the protection of heritage sites in the Prospect Lake district
Over the past four years we have written and produced the historical book Prospect Lake Reflections , compiled over 15 interviews with early pioneers of the area and contributed to the most recent Saanich Heritage Walk brochure of the Prospect Lake area.
Through the community mapping project we plan to continue to develop awareness of the land as the foundation of our community and to use it in respectful and sustainable ways.
* for more information, see the “Announcements” Page of this web site.
NOTABLE PEOPLE WOVE PROSPECT LAKE HISTORY
Fish and game abounded when the first settlers came – There were Durrances, Oldfields, Duvals – and On Hing
By Bee Lamprect, Daily Colonist, November 3, 1957
The morning sun glinted in a brilliant pattern of movement on the restless water. A young girl, in her teens, walked out on a rocky promontory and cupped her hands around her mouth, hallooing across the lake.
Martha McDonald had come to visit her uncle, Frank Campbell, at Prospect Lake.
It was 50 odd years ago and Prospect Lake was populated by perhaps a dozen families, in contrast to some 300 now living on and around the lake the year round.
Martha McDonald and her sister often stayed with Uncle Frank and Aunt Ester, taking the eight mile train ride from Victoria on the “Cordwood Limited” as the Victoria and Sidney Railway was called by the local folks. The V&S, inaugurated in 1894, was the only means of public transportation out into the wilds of Saanich, and later, in 1898, the railway operated a Sunday excursion trip from Hillside station to accommodate the dozens of fishermen who wanted their share of the fabulous catches of trout. Martha liked fishing and hunting too, and to a girl like her, used to the outdoor life, the mile and a half hike from the station at Beaver Lake in to Prospect Lake was nothing.
It was the only way to reach the Campbell house, as no road led in to the lake at the time from what would later be called the West Saanich Road. So Martha—or any other visitors – had to stand on the point of rock a few hundred yards across the lake and holler for someone to come over in a rowboat or a canoe.
ON HING’S LAND
This rock was part of On Hing’s property. On Hing, a hard working Chinese, owned 89 acres on the southeast side, which was almost entirely planted in strawberries and fruit orchards. He, his wife, and his family lived quietly and industriously, and it was a familiar sight to see On Hing travelling around the country side with his wagon full of produce and crates of chickens underneath, trading for fresh meat, grain and other supplies.
Thirty three of these 89 acres were sold and subdivided in 1914, when On Hing had been buried beside his wife’s grave and the sons decided to move into Victoria. This subdivision of the property really marked the beginning of Prospect Lake’s popularity as a summer resort.
Roughly four stages can be traced in Prospect Lake’s development. First it was popular with hunters and fishermen and the Colonist as early as early as 1866 described the lake as “thronged with anglers” and the next year reported that “six men caught 180 trout, using herring bait”.
THEN, after 1914, well-to-do people started building summer homes, and because these same wealthy folks were able to start buying some of the first motor cars around this time, it became a much simpler trip out to the lake than by the previous jogging hour and a half drive by horse and buggy, or even the comparative comfort of the BCER Interurban ride, which necessitated a walk in from Goward Station, named after A.T. Goward, manager of the B.C. Electric at that time. It is still possible to drive down part of the old Interurban route, although not to the original terminus at Pandora and Douglas. The Interurban offered an excellent half hour service, operating from 1911 to 1924 running from Victoria to Deep Cove.
Shawnigan Lake became the fashionable summer resort when the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway was put through, and for a time life moved on slowly and peacefully at Prospect Lake. Gradually more and more young families made it their permanent home.
Then the Second World War came, and the empty summer cottages were in great demand by members of the RCAF, who wanted to house their wives and families as close as possible to Patricia Bay. And after the war the acute housing shortage in Victoria again drove families to live at the lake while waiting for a house in the city.
TODAY lakeside property is scarce. The majority of the homes are lived in all year, and the community, although not closely knit, is emphatically becoming conscious of itself as an entity rather than an unrelated group. In 1956 the Prospect Lake and District Community Association was formed.
Now it is just a 20 minute drive to Victoria City Hall, along a road which has recently been reconstructed and then on the smooth Douglas Street highway. However, the early roads, the first of which are shown on maps dated 1895, were a different proposition, and a trip to town took the best part of a day by horse and buggy along the corduroy or dirt roads laid down over the very first foot trails.
It is probable that the lake, which is only about a mile long and half a mile wide, got its name when the Forty-Niners from California came searching for gold. They were following the Leechtown vein and actually did find colour on Webb Creek, near where it runs into Durrance Lake, some miles up in the hills. Prospect Lake may have looked good the Forty-Niners but there is no evidence that they ever did find gold in or near it. However, the name stayed even when the prospectors moved on.
There are several other names familiar to the district, Jack Durrance, Sam McCullough, Fred Duval, Frank Campbell, H.T. Oldfield and Tony Williams are some of the more widely known.
The grandfather of Jack Durrance landed at Sidney in 1852 after a long voyage from England. In an Indian canoe he made his way into Tod Inlet, looking for good farm land, and about half way up Tod Creek, which drains Prospect Lake, he found what he was looking for, and pitched his tent. He soon found it was necessary to drive stakes through his blankets and generally keep a sharp eye open to prevent losing his belongings to prowling Indians. By 1860 he had settled on his 300 acre farm.
He married a widow, the former Mrs. Bailey, the grandmother of Fred Duval. Their one child, John, went first to the small school at Royal Oak which was built on land donated by the mother when she had been married to Mr. Bailey, who ran the hotel and tavern at Royal Oak. Later the boy attended the West Saanich School in Brentwood—in fact, he helped to clear the land for the school, as was usual in those days. Stumping powder and manpower had to do in two weeks what it takes a modern bulldozer to do in a day.
John married a girl from Webb Creek close by (named after her father) and fathered two daughters and two sons, all born on the original farm. John Durrance is dead now, but Mrs. Durrance lives in Victoria, and both sisters and one brother live elsewhere on the island. Jack Durrance owns and operates the store at the corner of the West Saanich Road and Prospect Lake Road.
THIS Store was built in 1913 by Sam McCullough and run for him by Jack Findley, who married McCullough’s daughter. Findley also acted as postmaster, which meant the post office was much more conveniently located for the residents than it has been previously. Until then it had been at Heal’s School, about a mile farther down the roads where 30 or so local children learned their 3Rs. Jack Durrance and Gawn McCullouch, both men in their fifties now, are the only two remaining in the district who attended the original Prospect Lake School, which later became a cow barn and then a Sunday School when the existing Prospect Lake School was built, and is now a residence.
GOLD IN CARIBOO
Louis Duval, another old timer, worked his way west from Three Rivers, Quebec, to Gastown, later called Vancouver, and from there went prospecting for gold in the Cariboo. In 1875 he married Janie Cheeseman, who had been born in Victoria 18 years before, settled down to general farming on his 70- acre place at Royal Oak. The couple had three sons: Louis, William and Fred and a daughter, now Mrs. W.P.Ranking of Craigflower.
Fred, the only brother still living in the district, was born in 1884 and that same year had the distinction of becoming the first child christened in St. Michael’s Church, which his father had helped to shingle. He was also one of the few passengers on the first-day excursion run of the V&S Railway from Victoria to Sidney in 1894.
Fred’s early schooling took place in the original frame school, which is still standing although over 70 years old, built on ground donated by his grandmother, Mrs. Bailey – the same school John Durrance attended.
In 1907, just a year after Saanich was incorporated as a municipality, Fred Duval and his brother Louis started what is believed to be the first steam driven sawmill in the district. They used three or four horses for the logging operations and employed about seven men. The last site for their portable mill was at Prospect Lake, a few miles back in the bush, and in order to get the machinery in (which was hauled by Joe Heaney’s horses from town) and the logs out it was necessary to build a road, which was done in 1910 and known until as Sawmill Road. It was now called Meadowbrook.
Earlier, around 1906, the Duvals had helped petition for the building of Prospect Lake Road, which was constructed by Saanich, with Sam McCullough as foreman on the job. Louis Duval…farther-in-law William Snyder, had completed a contract, for the sum of $3,000 to widen and gravel most of the West Saanich Road when young Fred was still just a child, so road building was nothing new to the Duval family.
By 1911 the brothers were sawing 10,000 feet of lumber daily in their mill, and getting $12 a thousand for number one rough, logging off their own 100 acres which belonged to Frank Campbell, from whom they leased timber rights.
Soon after Fred Duval gave up the sawmill, built himself a frame house with his own lumber and in1920 started raising over a thousand chickens for eggs. He and his wife still live comfortably in the house on the West Saanich Road.
FRANK CAMPBELL was not the first man to settle in the district, but he was surely one of the best known. His niece, Martha McDonald, has many delightful memories of times spent out at the lake at Uncle Frank and Aunt Esther’s place. There were two houses on the lake: One situated on a jutting nose of rock, and the other, larger, set further back on the plateau above and to one side. It was a large whitewashed frame house, two stories high, and although the upstairs was never finished, the girls often slept there when the Campbells had a lot of other company in the three bedrooms downstairs.
LOG ROOT HOUSE
There were sheds, barns, out –buildings and the water tower close by outside, as well as a log root house which was still in good condition when the writer’s house was built on the site of Campbell’s place two years ago. At that time, when clearing the land, the number of bricks and bedsprings that turned up, as well as stove lids and other metal objects, were testimony that a house had stood there before.
Mrs. Campbell died in1924: the big house burned down to the ground in the spring of 1927 (leaving a charred flagpole still to be seen) and by 1929 Frank Campbell himself was dead.
He had failed in his attempt to take over the management of his deceased father’s famous cigar store in Victoria, known as Campbell’s Corner, and in his happy go lucky fashion to keep body and soul together had commenced to sell off parcels of his property.
THIS PROPERTY compromised almost the whole west side of Prospect Lake, some 840 acres. The government had awarded him the land years before as payment for getting rid of the wild cattle that roamed the district and threatened to multiply beyond control.
These were the offspring of the cattle that had been on Pat Haggerty’s farm at the south end of the lake. Haggerty, a bachelor, had not been discovered until a couple of weeks after his lonely death, and in the meantime the cattle had escaped and gone their own way into the bush. Local folks never knew when they would come face to face with one of these fierce cows or bulls: Gawn McCullough, for instance, remembers spending the best part of an afternoon perched on a tree stump out of reach, while his mother, with whom he had been berry picking, found safety on another stump close by.
Another well known name at Prospect Lake is that of Oldfield. H.T.Oldfield came from England as a young man in 1895, married in 1911, and lost no time establishing his farm and orchard, as were other industrious men like Captain McMillan (probably one of the first settlers), William Trickey, Tony Williams and Alfred Spotts.
Once a week Mr. Oldfield hitched up the horse and buggy and drove into town to make his regular delivery of eggs and fruit to the hospitals. He brought home meat and staple groceries on the return trip, dealing with stores like Scott and Peden or Copas and Young, grocers at Fort and Broad Streets then.
In February of 1916 an extraordinarily heavy fall of snow made life most uncomfortable for the settlers. Mrs. Oldfield’s father, who lived in Oak Bay, telephoned to warn them a heavy snowfall was predicted and he thought that she and the children would be better off in Victoria. Agreeing, Oldfield harnessed the horses to a sled, drove his wife and children up to the Interurban, and for the next 10 days looked after the animals and did the farm chores in almost complete isolation. Once he saw a solitary figure moving across the frozen lake on skis– one of the Duvals, he recognized—and it was good to know that there still were other human beings in this white silent world. Spring was very welcome that year.
Mr. Oldfield died just seven years ago, leaving his name prominent in the community with sons Basil and Brian carrying on, respectively, a welding shop and service station on the West Saanich Road.
Another old timer who died only last year at the age of 89, was Tony Williams. Born Antonio Rodriguez, he and his brother Emmanuel left their home in the Azores, which was under Portuguese rule, to avoid military service and try their luck in the New World. Manuel, a boat engineer, found work in Fall River near Boston Mass., and Tony, following him a few years later, came to Canada.
The gold rush of ’98 lured him to Dawson City, but the winter forced him to turn back. He made $1,000 cutting wood beside the river for the boats, and this money he hoped to use to train to become a doctor when he returned to Victoria.
After some time the two brothers contacted each other and together they went to work cutting wood at Shawnigan, with some other young men from the Azores. The winter was a bad one, and the newcomers found Canada was not the land of milk and honey that they had expected.
ALL BUT Tony and Manuel returned to the Azores. Tony left the wood cutting job, too, walked to Victoria to look for a job. In 1893 he found work as a helper at St Joseph’s Hospital, and by 1901 had earned his certificate as a male nurse which entitled him to do private nursing. It was as near as he ever came to his dream of becoming a doctor. After some years at this, however his health began to fail and he started to search for an outside job again. He was one of those on Pemberton’s first survey party and helped clear Elk and Beaver Lakes for Victoria’s water supply, becoming close friends with Louis Duval, Fred’s father, at that time.
In 1905 he began to clear the three lots he had bought for himself at Prospect Lake, living in Frank Campbell’s log house until he and the neighbours, in a building bee, hewed enough logs to raise his house a couple of years later.
THERE he lived alone until he married an English girl in 1916 and brought her out to join him at the lake. The following year he became a Canadian citizen, and legally known as Anthony Williams. Mrs. Williams is still living in the original house with her memories and letters from her son serving in Indo-China at present with the Canadian Army.
There are many more people who can claim Prospect Lake as part of their own personal history – people like Ed Lohbrunner, for instance, who remembers coming to the lake as a child, sometimes walking a couple of miles in from Burnside Road to the families summer home, which adjoined Tony Williams place.
That was about 30 years ago. A decade before that, Andrew Paton and his friend, a Mr. Hackett, used to journey out from Victoria for the superb hunting and fishing at Prospect Lake. In fact, he and Hackett built themselves simple cabins to stay in with lumber from Fred Duval’s sawmill, ferried across the lake in a rowboat loaded to the gunwales. Paton gradually added to those original two rooms of his and the house he lives in today, on what is called Echo Road, is integrated with his hunting cabin of years ago.
ALTHOUGH few people have heard of it, there was a move afoot to call the lake Coolwater, about 20 years ago. This appears to have arisen through the establishment of a summer post office in the tiny store operated at the corner of Sawmill Road. Since the post office at the main store on the highway was called Prospect Lake, this little substation received the name Coolwater, and the lake itself is so designated on a road map of the area issued around the same time.
However, Prospect Lake it remains today, and when the summer people have returned to town, and the speedboats and water skiers have gone into winter hibernation, the peace of this beautiful lake returns—a blessing and a balm to the spirit, as it was in the beginning.
Welcome to the story of the Spirit of Tomorrow, also known as the “Teardrop.”
This web page is dedicated to the life of Horace Basil Oldfield,the man with more than one dream, and more than one accomplishment, one who designed and built this car [the ‘Teardrop’].
This site has fabulous photos!
Life in Tod Inlet 1900 -1923
written by Mary Parsell