Please submit brief pieces of Thetis Island history. Photos are welcomed. We'd love to hear what brought you and/or your family to this place. Each piece helps to put together a grassroots history of our community.
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Thetis Island circa 1919 photographs are from the private collection of Mrs. Spetifore (nee Roe) given to Grace Dickie for her archives. Mrs. Spetifore was raised in what used to be called “the Roe cabin”, which is the old white house on what is now Carolyn Askew’s property.
When the Marine Medical Mission owned this property, they always called this “the lower pasture”, a name that may date back to when this photo was taken. This was taken just about in the center of Dickies’ property (lot 294), and it is facing SE. The high angle may have been achieved by the photographer standing on top of the hay wagon shown in one of the other photos. There was a drainage canal along the edge of the trees, and there were several cross-ditches (like the one in the foreground) that drained into the canal. There was a dike across the valley from the center of the photo to the left side, where the low trees and bushes are in the background. The dike had a narrow gap almost exactly at the center of the photo.
Today, Vanderhoefs’ property starts about half way back in the photo, Jollity Farm is a little way behind the large trees on the right, Holloway’s is behind the lower trees in the center, and Pilkey Point Road is in the background. The slightly bent fence post on the right is still in place!
This shows George Roe cutting grain, and Alex Black carrying the stooks. The photo is near where Vanderhoefs’ barn and stable are, looking SE.
This shows Alex Black on the ground, and an unidentified employee or neighbour driving the team. This appears to be the same team that was cutting the grain. This hay was headed for the hayloft at what is now the Capernwray barn.
The photo was taken near the south east corner of the valley. This is the area that now has the largest part of the meandering stream that is clearly visible today on Google Earth.
As you can see, the stream was non-existent in 1919 because of the drainage system.
This is a photo of George Roe with a team of draft horses. Note that these are not the same horses as shown in the other photos. This was taken on “the knoll” at Vanderhoefs’, looking just about east. Part of the dike is visible on the left, Jollity Farm is now where the horses are blocking the background, and Dickies’ property is in the background to the left.
This shows George Roe on his Fordson tractor, working in “Telegraph Harbour Field”, near the present location of Caroline Askew’s house, with what is now the Peggs’ property in the background.
This shows George Roe plowing “Long Acre Field” using a circa 1920 Fordson tractor. That model tractor was the first one that Ford made, starting in 1917, so this tractor was at most 2 years old, and truly “state of the art” in 1919! The photo was taken near the present location of Capernwray’s Tree House, looking downhill to Preedy Harbour. The “island” of trees in the background is now Deb Wilson’s property.
This is George Roe, with his children Jean and Freda, using their “landscaping” equipment- the Fordson tractor, pulling a roller and a harrow. The barn is the one that is now used as a gymnasium at Capernwray. At the time of the photo, it was called “the Beddis barn” after Mr. Beddis from Saltspring Island, who designed and built it. Note that, ca. 1919, the barn had only the north one of the two lean-to additions that it now has. In the photo, the huge upper door to the hayloft is clearly visible. This was necessary because, at that time, the hay was not baled, so a very large opening was needed for the horse-powered grapple that lifted huge bunches of hay up to the top of the barn.
It’s interesting how small the world is, isn’t it? Little connections are like grains of sand that keep collecting until all of a sudden you have a beach. At least that’s how it seems to me. How did Frank and I come to live Thetis Island? The tiny connections go a long way back.
My mother, Nice Jepson, had always been interested in unusual and new ideas. In the 60’s, Mum found herself deeply involved with a group that explored how magnetic fields affect our lives. Founded by Fran Nixon, the Northwest Magnetics Research Society was centered right here on Thetis Island. It was a period of Mum’s life that she really enjoyed and included lots of trips to Thetis Island. She particularly remembered one voyage on the little MV Ethel Hunter that involved a full load. Since she drove a little Morris Minor, the deck hands bounced her car into a corner so they could jam in another car or two and then bounced her out again when they reached Thetis.
Fran Nixon’s husband, Richard, grew up on what is now Hollyberry Lane. Beth and Ken Bolster along with Ken’s brother, Perry, bought that property from Richard Nixon’s mother and started the Hollyberry Strata. Mum got into goats and some time after 1970, she bought a doe from Beth who remembers my parents coming over to view the prospective purchase. Another connection!
When Frank worked for BC Tel, one of his first jobs involved emptying payphones and that brought him to Thetis Island. He remembers payphones at the Government Dock, both marinas and thinks there might have been payphones at the church camps as well. This was about 1969 and there was very little road paving on Thetis at the time. He once drove to the end of Pilkey Point Road over a very narrow dirt lane and remembers the blissful peace of eating his lunch on the beach until it was time to run for the ferry home.
Now we jump to the 1980’s. Frank and I were raising Nubian dairy goats in Cowichan Bay. We were involved in showing the animals and testing the milk through a national program. We met a young couple called Ann and Bill Dickie who had a half-sister to our herd matriarch. Before you know it, we were coming over to Thetis Island to test their goats! We quickly noticed that Thetis Island seemed to exert a calmness and serenity on us and started thinking that it might be a great place to live one day. Ann and Bill picked up on this and in the late 80’s took us on a tour of Thetis with an eye to buying property, but it wasn’t until 1990 that Ann stumbled upon a small card on the Island bulletin board advertising a lot for sale in Hollyberry Lane. One gorgeous sunny November day we came over to view the property with my parents and enjoyed hot chocolate and apple fritters at Clam Bay, which was crowded with softly quacking buffleheads. Of course, we were lost! We took possession within 2 months and the next year saw my parents selling their home of 34 years to relocate to Thetis Island as well. Within 2 years of purchasing our lot, we had sold our home in Cowichan Bay and moved into my parents’ cottage while we built our home.
And so tiny connections lead to a major life change. The recent birth of our grandson had us thinking of a move from Thetis Island. It would be nice to live closer to be more useful to our son’s family. But then spring arrives and all thoughts of a move go flying out the window. How could we ever find the same peace, security and solitude that we enjoy here on Thetis Island?
Lawrence Spring Farm was originally part of what used to be the largest farm on the island. Started in the late 1800’s by the Burchell family, it was planted primarily in hay and grain for their cattle and sheep operation. The Burchells sold the property in 1926 and it then passed through several different owners.
The property was selectively logged in the 1920’s, and then again in the 1950’s. A large herd of cattle was pastured on the farm through the 1960’s and 1970’s. Bill Dickie purchased it in 1980, and the Dickie family has continuously pastured a small herd of cattle on the farm since then.
A description from the Colonist , Victoria, BC February 19, 1929 read: “At the foot of Mt. Burchell is an open expanse of pasture, some 40 acres in extent, with a stream meandering through it, and the whole space being wonderful pasture.”
Although the pastures of the early 20th century have never been restored to their former fecundity, they have left in their legacy a beautiful meadow, with the stream still running through it today. The Valley, as it is called familiarly, is home to an abundance and variety of wildlife, as well as its contented herd of cattle.