Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Craigflower Village, the lost 14th CRD Municipality Rediscovered!

UPDATE - make sure you read the final note on the page

As many of you know I am a serious BC History buff.   I love to read the old newspapers, the journals of the legislatures or just hang out in the BC Archives.   I have made a fascinating discovery about seven months ago.  In 1866 the Legislature of Vancouver Island incorporated the second local government in what is now BC - Craigflower Village.   Shortly there after Vancouver Island was merged with the colony of British Columbia to become one unified Crown Colony.

I had never heard of this municipality and so I did a lot more digging through source materials, an advantage of living here in Victoria with the Legislature Library and BC Archives.  I have gone through the journals of the Vancouver Island Legislature and the reports of the Daily Colonist and it all in black and white, Craigflower Village was incorporated on August 31st 1866.

All the laws of Vancouver Island, unless later rescinded, replaced or altered, remain in effect to this day.   One law never repealed or altered was "The Village of Craigflower Incorporation Act, 1866".   I have looked through all the relevant places and at no point can I find an act of the United Crown Colony of British Columbia or the Province of British Columbia rescinding the incorporation.

Craigflower Village legally still exists.   What this means is that the area of the original village is not legally part of any other local government.

Finally on Monday I found the most compelling evidence of the existence of Craigflower Village, a map in the BC Archives from 1870 showing the legal boundaries of the City of Victoria and the Village of Craigflower.  The map seems to have been created as part of the union with Canada.  The map it is not available online.  It is a very frail map that they only allow to be viewed if someone has a very good reason - when I told the archivist that I found a missing incorporated village that was enough for them to allow me into the back conservation area and see the map.  Below is an 1863 map of the Craigflower farm which is the same area that shortly afterwards was incorporated.
Craigflower Farm, the area that was incorporated as Craigflower Village on August 31st 1866
The incorporation seems to have happened because the Puget Sound Agricultural Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of the HBC, was divesting properties and wanted to subdivide the Craigflower Farm.   It seems that incorporation was needed to allow for the subdivision of the farm into small lots.

Not surprisingly the first reeve of Craigflower Village was none other than arch HBC loyalist Dr J.S. Helmcken, elected to office in October of 1866.   The meeting of the council were held at the Craigflower Schoolhouse.

Other references I have found to Craigflower Village
  • About four or five times a year a mention in the Daily Colonist in the years from 1866 to 1875 and then it drops off to a trickle
  • 1871 and 1881 census returns for Craigflower Village
  • The BC Legislative Journals in 1873 mention roadworks in the Village of Craigflower
  • The addendum to the terms of union with Canada outline a series of BC debts that Canada was taking on, one of them were for rural road works in Craigflower village
  • Peter O'Reilly mentions Craigflower Village in his notes for the creation of the Songhees #1 reserve in 1877
So far the last record I can find of a Craigflower council meeting is from June 14th 1883 when the council passed a bylaw banning "orientals" from owning property in Craigflower.

So what does this mean in 2015?   The area that was incorporated as Craigflower Village is now admistered as a part of Saanich, View Royal or Esquimalt but it has never legally been incorporated into them.  It means the bylaws of those communities do not hold sway and they are not legally entitled to any property taxes.

The fix this situation the province would have to pass an act of the legislature dissolving Craigflower.  Until that happens, the residents of Craigflower could elect a new council and reeve.  Given the reluctance of the province to force amalgamations I suspect that they would not actually dissolve but leave it up to the residents to decide what they want to do.

Since it is after 12 noon on April 1st, I have to confess that this is not real at all.

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