Gary Pearson kneels by artifacts with Port Renfrew significance at the Sooke Region Museum on March 9.

Decrepit cabin y ields piece of Port Renfrew history

Donated artifacts will be housed at the Sooke Region Museum

Port Renfrew historian believes he has made a connection between two of the region’s first settlers, never discovered before.

In 2001, Gary Pearson, 60, a retired naval officer, historian and artifact excavator, was working on an unrelated project on Edinburgh Mountain, north of Port Renfrew, when a decrepit cabin took the notice of his co-workers.

After investigating, Pearson learned the cabin, the items inside, and the mineshaft belonged to Lt. Col. Richard Temple Godman, a Port Renfrew pioneer and British army officer. The relics found included an old stove, crockery bottles and hand steels, dating back to 1898.

Pearson, who has collected artifacts for museums across Canada, considers the items to be some of the few remaining artifacts belonging to the prominent Godman family in Port Renfrew, other than an old, memorial monument in a school yard.

According to Pearson, Godman and his sons constructed some of the first buildings in Port Renfrew. The Godman canneries, hotel, general store and post office have since been burnt down and destroyed.

Upon further research, Pearson discovered Godman was one of the first recipients of the Victoria Cross for his valour during the Crimean war in 1854.

Another recipient of the cross was Capt. Walter Colquhoun Grant, a British army officer and one of the first settlers on Vancouver Island in 1849. The area would later be declared Sooke.

“In 120 years, nobody has ever said this,” Pearson said, adding he has never read any research that connected the two men during the Crimean War.

“All of the people who have written history… and everything they’ve written there’s no mention of this stuff.”

Pearson was given permission from the chief gold commissioner to rescue the artifacts. He donated them to the Sooke Region Museum on March 9.

“We hope that we’ll be able to help present the story of Port Renfrew to the community,” said Lee Boyko, Sooke Region Museum executive director. “We certainly have some material from that part of our district — anything from that early on is very important to tell us more about the history of the area.”

Museum historian, Elida Peers, agreed.

“It’s fascinating, this is early stages, and I’m looking forward to learning more,” she said. “We have always been really interested about learning more about Capt. Walter Colquhoun Grant.”

Pearson and his wife, Karen, published a book in 1988 called What Gives You the Authority? The artifacts will be featured in Pearson’s second book on the recovery of artifacts and their significance to Vancouver Island history.