CAPTAIN GRANT, IMMIGRANT SETTLER
While this gift photo is labeled Grant Road, 1942, we’d welcome readers’ ideas in helping us identify the scene. Is it the west end of Grant Road where it meets West Coast Road, and if so, is it likely that Grant Road was un-graveled as recently as 1942?
Grant Road was named for Captain Walter Colquhoun Grant, formerly of the Royal Scots Greys, the first independent immigrant settler from Europe to purchase land in the new colony in 1849. The Captain purchased 100 acres stretching from the harbour front inland to the road that bears his name. His property was bounded on the west by what is now Maple Avenue, and ran eastward approximately to today’s Gatewood. We are told he paid L 100 Sterling for the 100 acres.
Grant did some survey work for the Hudson’s Bay Company and established a reputation for growing a fine turnip crop, but it seems that he did not much relish the time spent in the quiet outpost overlooking Sooke Harbour. He took passage by sailing vessel, traveling to scout for lumber markets in San Francisco and the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). Grant’s water-powered sawmill was established at Veitch Creek, where it flows into the eastern reach of Sooke Basin.
While there is a cairn standing at Sooke’s Millennium Memorial Park today, complete with a bronze plaque honouring Grant, presented by the Government of British Columbia to mark the province’s Centennial in 1958, Grant leaves another legacy as well.
In Honolulu, Grant was hosted by the British Consul as he explored a market for his planned lumber export. While there, the Consul’s wife gifted him with treasured seeds from the Scotch broom plants she had brought with her from her Scottish homeland. On Grant’s arrival back at Sooke Harbour, he was greeted by fellow-immigrants, the John Muir family, and entrusted the precious seeds to the care of Ann Muir.
While Grant left Sooke in 1853, bound for the Crimean war, the brilliant yellow blossoms that he introduced were to spread from three little plants to masses of blooms that became a feature of the coast landscape in early summer. Today, that brilliant burst of blooms is considered a “mixed blessing” as its hardy roots and bursting seed-pods have traversed the terrain from California to Alaska.
Sooke Region Museum