From the 1850s until the District of Saanich became a Canadian municipality of its own in 1906, it was known as the Lake District, a rural section of wards that were overseen by the City of Victoria.
Section by section, the lots of Lake District and that of the Victoria Land District (of which many were in what became modern Saanich) were purchased in the late 1850s, mostly for farming owners. Some of the more agricultural lots were split into smaller farms, as the initial lots were quite large.
And it was that community of farmers who led to Saanich’s beginning, with Thomas Brydon at the lead.
Without much documentation it’s uncertain if Brydon was the most influential Saanich forefather, but in hindsight, it certainly looks that way. Born in 1857 on a farm in Scotland, circumstances of the day (many of them tragic) convinced him and his partner Mary Ann Malcolm to wed and travel to Victoria in 1884. It was noted as a nine-month journey around Cape Horn, with only one trunk and a box of tools between them. A carpenter by trade, Brydon contributed to such Victoria landmarks as the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and more.
By the 1890s he became involved in politics, especially civic affairs. As of 1899 he served Victoria council as an alderman until something changed and he gave up the seat, said Brydon’s great granddaughter Sylvia Hosie, a recently retired Claremont secondary teacher who lives near Playfair Park.
“My mother was big into the history,” Hosie said. “Saanich farmers [such as Layritz] and others didn’t want the city guys meeting and telling the farmers how to go about doing their business.”
Brydon and others went about setting up the District of Saanich and they used an empty home as the original municipal hall. It was located on the back of a farm along Glanford, next to the Craigo Park Farm that Brydon’s family ran (picture a sloping orchard and crops on the western side of Glanford, south of Mann Avenue and across from the Bird of Paradise pub). That building exists in front of the Saanich Fire Department at 760 Vernon Ave.
Among the early lot buyers were none other than the “Hanging Judge” Matthew Baillie Begbie. In 1859, the renowned judge, who presided in court before and long after B.C. started (until he died in 1894), purchased 165 acres in what’s now West Saanich on lots 103 and 104. Hudson Bay’s Kenneth McKenzie, who helped erect the Craigflower Schoolhouse, purchased 381 acres of Swan Lake/Reynolds/Lakehill in 1856. That was just south of the 281 acres George Blenkinsop had bought in what became most of the Blenkinsop Valley in 1855.
That McKenzie land, for interest’s sake, was purchased in what the B.C. Assessment Authority classifies to this day as part of the Victoria Land District, although the property tax goes to Saanich for municipal property assessments.