THE FIRST OWNER OF: Section 1, Range 1 West, North Saanich

On August 15, 1883, Samuel Leon Kelly (age 61) attended a government land sale in Victoria. He was the highest bidder of catalogue Lot No. 18, officially known as: Section 1, Range 1 West, North Saanich. This one hundred acre section sold for $1.12½ per acre. Samuel paid a deposit of $38, and on August 24, he paid the balance of $74.50. Four months later, on January 21, 1884, the Honourable Clement Francis Cornwall, the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, signed the letters patent and affixed the Great Seal of British Columbia, which thereby enabled crown grant No. 133/22.

Kelly held the property as an investment for nine-and-a-half years (1883-1893). During this period he lived and worked in Victoria. There’s some evidence that Samuel had a few trees removed from the center valley in preparation for a future ranch. It’s my best guess that Kelly offered or asked the Thomson’s to remove the valuable old-growth Douglas fir trees during their 1884-92 pre-emption improvement process for the adjoining south sections.

On May 2, 1893, Kelly transferred the property to the British Columbia Land Investment Agency, to be sold at public auction. On October 2, 1895, Victoria pioneer John Dean bided $3.75 per acre, and became the next owner. Eighty percent of this land grant would in 1921, revert by donation to the crown; accepted in trust as a provincial park, known as Dean Park.

Samuel Leon Kelly, born 1822, was a native of Jonesboro, Tennessee. On March 16, 1848, during the Mexico-American War, he was shot in the knee at the battle of Santa Cruz de Rosales. But seemingly, that didn’t stop him from seeking the adventure of life. He moved to San Francisco, took-up the speciality of tin smith and participated in the cities growth. Kelly left San Francisco onboard the SS Commodore, and arrived in Victoria on May 11, 1858 (age 36). He was a bachelor, an experienced tin smith and was seeking wealth. That summer he headed for the Fraser Canyon to work the hills and bars in the search for gold. Stories suggest that for a while he made $40 per day, which helps to explain his return to Victoria where he lived as a man of leisure. He opened a successful hardware business (S.L. KELLY & Co – Sole Agents for the Backus Water Motor), and took an interest in the volunteer fire department where he was elected foremen of the Tiger Engine Company.

Other stories recount frequent secret visits to his old home in San Francisco. The nature of those trips remained mysterious until December of 1863, when Mrs. Mary Anne Kelly, a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, stepped off the vessel Oregon, onto the docks at Victoria. The firemen of the Tiger Engine Company and numerous guests held a welcome party at the Johnson Street engine house. The party lasted for hours, and then formed a procession to the St. George Hotel where three cheers were given to Mary & Samuel…

Samuel Leon and Mary Anne lived at the corner of Douglas and Broughton in Victoria. They enjoyed the evening fire practices, and grand picnics along the Gorge waterway. These picnics were just as fancy as those in San Francisco; Kelly was there in the planning and presentation, as he promised it would be talked about for years.  He also organized the “Fireman’s Picnic” held each year in Cadboro Bay, and was typically the master of ceremonies. The picnics were attended by hundreds, and referred to as par excellent. More notably when James Douglas retired, the firemen serenaded, gave three cheers and gave an illuminated address at his residence in James Bay. Afterwards they attended the Mayor’s residence on Government Street and also gave three hearty cheers.

After 10 years as foremen, Samuel left active firefighting. He was presented a gold-headed cane for his faithful service, and was elected the president of the Board of Delegates of the fire department. Kelly then transitioned into spending time at home working on something that was so hush-hush, his wife didn’t know what was going on? Citizens and friends were only told that one day they would be surprised! After much interest, in 1881, Kelly the amateur inventor took the editor of the Colonist into his workshop. The editor was so impressed that his headline was: “Fish on Ice-salmon frozen and restored to animation by patented process.” This invoked a city wide curiosity and everyone called on Samuel to see the frozen salmon. He laboured towards its perfection, however nothing ever materialized and the idea faded away.

Kelly was a charter member of the Masonic Lodge in Victoria. He served as a city Alderman for two years (1889-90); and he continued serving the fire brigade. He was one of 20,000 persons who came to Victoria from San Francisco in 1858. It was the beginning of the gold excitement, and he is known as a ‘58er’. The ‘Roster of Fifty-Eighters’ in BC’ was published in the Victoria Daily Colonist, on January 20, 1908. Mary Anne passed away on September 18, 1907; and Samuel (age 87) passed away on July 26, 1909; both in Victoria. They had four children: two sons – Mr. S.B. Kelly and Mr. E.G. Kelly; and two daughters – Mrs. M.J. Cusack and Mrs. P. Myles.

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