Central Saanich History
The Tsawout and Tsartlip First Nations, located within Central Saanich, have a rich cultural and spiritual connection extending back in time thousands of years to the lands now known as the Saanich Peninsula. The Brentwood Bay and Saanichton Bay areas were, and continue to be, integral to the economic, cultural, and spiritual life of the First Nations. The beliefs of the Tsartlip and Tsawout people are inextricably linked to the land and surrounding natural systems; the four winds, the trees, the birds, the animals, and the fish were all people, long ago. Nature, animals, fish, fire and water are imbued with spiritual values that are honoured for their power to heal, give life, provide bounty, and provide guidance through life. The Tsartlip and Tsawout First Nations have a strong, distinct sense of community. The common focus of the Nations is to maintain and restore their rich cultural heritage.
The first European settlers arrived in what is now Central Saanich in 1855. The first three families were the Lidgates, the McPhails and the Thomsons.The Lidgates' cabin (1858) and Bannockburn (1869) are still standing today. In fact, their construction at the base on Mt. Newton led to a roadway connecting East and West Saanich roads. The early settlers were mostly farmers who appreciated the land's fertile soil and grew hops, fruit, hap, grains and berries. There was also some logging and fishing. In the early days of settlement, the journey to Victoria was a four-day canoe trip around the Peninsula.
Robert Pim and Jennie Butchart opened a large limestone quarry and cement plant in 1904 (where Butchart Gardens is located today). The BC Cement factory supplied international markets with cement by way of a barge from Tod Inlet around the Saanich Peninsula and into Victoria's Inner Harbour. The factory closed in 1916, but tiles and pots continued to be manufactured on the site until 1950. Mrs. Butchart started her ambitious beautification of the property with the Sunken Garden (originally the limestone quarry) and the gardens bloomed from there and were soon an international destination. Today, it's a National Historic Site of Canada.
The Corporation of the District of Central Saanich was incorporated on December 12, 1950, and the Central Saanich Fire Department and Municipal Police Department (consisting of one Chief Constable equipped with a pair of handcuffs, a blackjack, and a 38 calibre revolver) were added in 1951.
Today, thanks to the efforts of Central Saanich residents including the Tsawout and Tsartlip First Nations, the history of Central Saanich lives on. For more history, visit our Heritage page for public heritage sites or visit the Saanich Pioneer Society Archives and Museum and Heritage Acres Museum.