The farm property in this photo is today covered in buildings, whether the boat building enterprise on the corner of West Coast Road and Maple Avenue or the commercial building that until recently housed the Juan de Fuca Planning Office of the CRD, or independent housing for individuals.
This photo shows a threshing crew at Burnside Farm. Many readers will know the name Burnside House, now a bed and breakfast, but originally it was built in 1884 as the home of Michael and Matilda Muir and their family of six daughters. This photo is believed to be dated 1906.
Typically in those days, threshing outfits were hired by the different farms, so crews would move about through the farming districts, Metchosin, Sooke and Otter Point, as farmers waited in turn to have their crops harvested.
The six horses we see here were the teams of Henry Fisher, a member of the Metchosin Fisher family. Married to a Muir daughter, Fisher owned a farm on Church Road and also used his horses to drive a stage to Victoria.
It was the oatfield that was being threshed, and one can be sure that the women working in the kitchen of Burnside House were also labouring for long hours preparing the hearty meals that would keep the crews expending so much energy from dawn to dusk.
We aren’t able to identify the men and women in this photo, but we do think it is a fascinating view of a way of life now long gone.
What we do know is that by 1906 Michael Muir, the John Muir family’s entrepreneurial son, had left his wife a widow almost 20 years earlier.
Of Michael and Matilda’s six daughters, Marion had married Adam Ross, Matilda had married Jack Gordon, and Alice married Henry Fisher. Three other daughters remained single.
By 1902 the Burnside property was held by Muir relatives Adam Ross and A.H. Peatt, and over time, many owners and tenants have occupied the Georgian-style pioneer building. By about 1980 it had been acquired by the Foster Isherwoods, who hoped to restore it to its original state.
Later it was purchased by Ken Knight and Janet Evans (later Sooke’s mayor) who carried out their own plan for restoration of the historic house and were recognized by Victoria’s Hallmark Society for their efforts.
Elida Peters is a historian with Sooke Region Museum.