As The Harpooner, a barque ship, slowly makes its way up the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Ann Muir looks out from the deck and gazes at the shores by Whiffen Spit. It would be the perfect spot for a home, she thought.
It was 1849 and John Muir with his wife, Ann, and five children were arriving on the shores of Victoria nearing the end of a long voyage from Scotland. It was a journey that would change their lives.
Muir arrived here to work as for the Hudson’s Bay Company in the coalfields of Fort Rupert.
Within two years, the family would buy a 160-acre section of land in what is now west Sooke and build a farm.
Woodside Farm was built in 1851, and is now the oldest continuously operated farm west of the Great Lakes.
And while the farm has diminished in size over the years, its significance to the Sooke Region has not.
Now, the Sooke Region Historical Society hopes to save the history of the farm, in what local historian Elida Peers calls “one of our community’s proudest assets,” with a documentary film.
The film project is spearheaded by a volunteer committee of 16 people who have a direct connection with the farm and the three pioneer families who called it home over the years: the Muirs, Glinzs and Wilfords. Metchosin filmmaker Michael Peterson is producing the film.
Work on the film began in July, and is expected to be wrapped up by September. It will intersperse interviews with historic photographs and visuals within the house and grounds.
Sense of history
The Muirs built two houses on the grounds of Woodside Farm, located at 7117 West Coast Road.
The first house was a one-storey “Woodside” built around 1851. It was replaced later by a classic Georgian-style farmhouse, and was home to both John Muir, Sr. and John Muir, Jr., until 1917.
Swiss farmers Arnold and Rosa Glinz leased the farm in 1917 and three years later bought the property and ran a guest house with the farm. Woodside Farm was bought by Phillip Wilford, through marriage, in 1947. Peter Wilford operates the farm today.
Life on the farm
Charlie Glinz and Pete Wilford have fond memories of growing up on Woodside Farm in the 1950s.
“We just had the run of the place all the time,” recalled Glinz. “It was a great place to grow up.”
After the Second World War, several families moved into the West Sooke neighbourhood, many from war-torn Holland under a government sponsorship program.
Woodside Farm sponsored some of those families with the Dutch working on the farm for at least a year. Up to three families could be living in the farmhouse. Each family had its own large vegetable garden, chickens, cows and pigs.
Wilford said the families lived in the house in harmony, each serving up their own meals. “For the Dutch it was a land of milk and honey. It wasn’t fancy, but there was lots of it,” he said.
With those families came a sense of community, which both Glinz and Wilford said added to the enjoyment and fun on living on the farm.
“We went from morning until night doing whatever we wanted,” Glinz said.
“Once the chores were done,” quipped Wilford.
“It was just being able to have a big piece of copy to run around on. It was freedom,” Glinz said.