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B.C.'s oldest farm, Woodside 1851-2012

Woodside Farm along West Coast Road - SRHS
Woodside Farm along West Coast Road
— image credit: SRHS

It hasn’t changed much, this stately farmhouse that has stood since 1884, marking the location of one of British Columbia’s most significant heritage sites. “Woodside Farm” has been lettered onto the shingled roof of the barn, the second one, shown here in1940.

When John Muir Sr. and his wife Ann Miller Muir took up this waterfront land in 1851, they began by tilling the soil and turning to food production to keep their family over the winter. As their production of vegetables increased, they were able to bring produce to the Victoria market, courtesy of cargo canoes and well-muscled paddlers of the T’Sou-ke nation.

While this farmhouse rose on the grounds in 1884, a product of the saw milling enterprise established by John Sr. and his sons John, Robert and Michael Muir, its predecessor on the site was a primitive but substantial cottage that served as the first shelter for this pioneer Scottish family.

The great resources of the Douglas fir forests led the Muirs to establish the first successfully-operated steam sawmill in British Columbia. While industry was the driver, food supply was the first priority, and the enterprising Muirs established what we believe to be the first and longest continuously-operated farm in the province’s history.

It is true the Hudson’s Bay Company established earlier farms, their factors recognizing nourishment of workers as the first need.  These farms, while extremely important, were company operations that served their purposes for the period they were needed, as we understand it, and then lapsed. Though sites such as Ft. Langley and Craigflower have been appropriately recognized with heritage designations in more recent years, Woodside is in a class by itself. It has never stopped farming.

Woodside’s operations have been managed since 1851 by John Muir Sr., then John Muir Jr., Douglas Muir, Arnold Glinz, Teddy Glinz, Philip Wilford, and still working today, Peter Wilford and his family, 161 years later.

The farm buildings first hewn together in the 1850s served their time, but were gradually replaced by the structures in this photograph. This barn was built by carpenter Bert Russell about 1930 and remains a magnificent red landmark on West Coast Road today. While the past 70 years have brought changes to the outbuildings in the photo, if you look closely you can still see some of the historic fruit trees planted so long ago.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum

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