There’s an amazing place, a secret, at the summit of John Dean Provincial Park – that’s worth a visit. From the parking lot, follow the gravel road upwards, past the swooping Coast Guard radar tower, to the fence of the Transport Canada (airports) radar facility. From the gate, turn right and walk along the fence upwards to the corner, and 20 feet away on the right (east) you’ll find: the First Survey Mount. You’ll see the 1958 centennial plaque, and look just behind it, and you’ll find a round brass plug.
The year was 1852 – and for the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), Surveyor General, Joseph Pemberton was roughly surveying the coastline of the Saanich Peninsula. That March, Pemberton unknowingly renamed Lauwelnew, giving it the name Mount Newton, which first appears on Pemberton’s 1852 map produced for the HBC.
Six years later, the HBC had the need to properly survey the Saanich Peninsula, which would permit settlers to own their land, and would in turn encourage investors. Pemberton contracted John Trutch to survey and map the ranges; to mark the allotment lines required throughout North and South Saanich, and to divide the whole into 100 acre sections. The survey was to be completed in the Decimal System of Allotment, and was to be completed by January 1st, 1859; for which Trutch received $15 per lineal mile.
In order to survey the lands between today’s BC Ferries and Elk Lake, Trutch established a commencement station at the summit of Mount Newton. He chose the highest, flattest, most central point, to where he wrote in his field notes: “Commencing at Station Tree, on the summit of Mount Newton, at foot of which set a post for corner to sections: 1 North, Ranges 1 East to West; and 1 South, Ranges 1 East to West + marked same… Raised a pile of stones around the post.”
By cutting a line east-west, Trutch divided the peninsula into north and south, which today is the boundary between North and Central Saanich. The sections were numbered outward from Post No. 1, north and southward; and the ranges numbered outward from Post No 1, east and westward.
Today, standing at Post No. 1, you can hold out your arms, forming a 90 degree quarter of a pie: a) facing northwest is the original 100 acre Dean Park; b) northeast is the Barret Montfort, 160 acre addition; c) southeast is the Sydney Pickles, 19 acre addition; and d) southwest is the Ruth Woodward, 80 acre addition.
To spend a few minutes looking in all directions; then to reflect and understand how the four major park donations all commenced from this survey point, and that all the properties on the peninsula are referenced from this survey – is rewarding.