THE THOMSON CABIN, 1910-1974

Section 1, Range 1 West, South Saanich

After the 1858 First Survey of the Saanich Peninsula, William and Margaret Thomson received three crown grants which all told, stretched from the summit of Mount Newton, south into their preexisting valley farm. Over the next century, five generations of the Thomson family would spend their relaxation time enjoying the upper slopes, and earned their incomes by farming the valley and by selective logging.

Crown Grant # 1, January 22, 1883 (320 acres)
Section 4, 5, and 6, Range 1 West, and Section 5, Range 3 West, SS

Crown Grant # 2, December 18, 1884 (166 acres)
Section 1, Range 2 West; and the west 66 acres of Section 1, Range 1 West, SS

Crown Grant # 3, March 7, 1892 (234 acres)
The east 34 acres of Section 1; and Section 2 and 3, Range 1 West, SS

I George Thomson of South Saanich in the Province of British Columbia, swear and make oath and say as follows: That I am the owner of the east 34 acres of Section 1, Range 1 West and Section 2 and 3, Range 1 West, South Saanich District. That I preempted same lands on the 9th April 1861, and have been in continuous occupation thereof to the present time. That the number of the record of same to me best of my recollection and belief was 28. That I paid the first installment of the purchase money for said lands on the 17th November 1862. That the preemption record above named as also the receipt for said purchase money I have been lost or misplaced. That I have made diligent search for the same and have failed to find them and believe them to be destroyed. That I have never by postulated or given the same to any person, as secondly for any advance of money the same never having been incumbent. And I make solemn statement on oath.

Sworn before me at Victoria
This 7th day of March 1892, Jno. Austin – Mary Amber

William Thomson

Certificate of Purchase, February 27, 1892
Deposit – November 17, 1862, $60.76
Balance paid – February 27, 1892, $173.24

Certificate of Improvement, March 7, 1892

William Thomson’s long-range plan was to keep the lower sections 4 to 6 for the family farm. He subdivided sections 1 to 3 into six separate properties that ran north-south spanning the three sections. He transferred these properties to his sons with the idea that they would live and work the lower portion, and have the mountainside for grazing and cord wood. The long narrow properties were assigned from east to west to: John, George, Alec, Robert, Richard, and Dick.

During the summer of 1910, two sons, John and Richard built a 15×18’ log cabin near the upper northeast corner of their property. They likely choose this site because it was the highest and flattest setting, with a nearby water supply. As well, it had majestic views; clear lines of sight from the south end of James Island, around Victoria, across to the Olympics and west into the Highlands; all available thanks to a forest fire that opened the area in 1900. Family and friends used the cabin as a hunting base, for recreation and daytime picnics. In-essence, the cabin was one room, with two windows and a wood stove. Everyone in the family visited John Dean and they shared a friendship – a superb pioneer style of support and familiarity.

In September of 1943 during WWII, John Thomson was asked by the federal government to sign over his upper northeast corner, 200×200’, for the purpose of installing a receiver for the airfield at Patricia Bay. Today this compound houses the airport radar tower for the federal Ministry of Transport (MOT).

In November of 1945, Charles, John and Walter Thomson sold the majority of their valley farm, and other subdivided properties. Luckily, in 1959, the new owners, Elmswood Ltd. (the company that owned Woodward’s Department Store) donated the uppermost 80 acres to John Dean Provincial Park.

Surprisingly, the Park’s Branch didn’t know about the cabin. If rangers did, they let it be, as it was one of those special places – for couples to spend the night. The Thomson Cabin stood until June 1974, when, for public safety, BC Parks literally pushed the structure over; thereby ending the 64-year Thomson Cabin Era. Today a large flat stone marks the cabins entrance; unbelievably, a few boards and cedar shingles remain.

In 1987, a proper trail was installed though this untouched area, and was dedicated as the Woodward Trail. The Thomson Cabin Trail commences at the MOT fence, and traverses southwest down Icicle Ridge to the Thomson Pond, past the cabin site, through beautiful flower meadows ending at Triangle Junction (Woodward, Surveyors’). From the cabin site, the Fern Dell Footpath follows the contour to Pickles’ Bluff. – Please be reassured, the entire area is garbage free!

The Thomson family owned this property for 87 years (1858-1945). They were the first pioneers, friends of John Dean, and contributed greatly to the economic growth of the Mount Newton Valley and Saanichton area!

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