Vancouver Island was one of the early spots in British Columbia’s history, and political events focused the spotlight on Victoria, the first settlement, on the tip of the Island. The Hudson’s Bay Company had to leave Astoria, on the Columbia River, and establish a new settlement, due to the heavy influx of settlers to that Pacific area. In this newly established settlement, many interesting postal stories came out in the little post offices. Today, this southern peninsula has a quarter million population.
Gone are the days of quiet when only a handful of people lived scattered over this area. The only connection between them was a man on horseback, riding through trees and meadowlands, to carry the mail from Victoria to the North Saanich post office.
By this time, people were beginning to settle around Tuan Harbour, and an enterprising gentleman by the name of Brackman decided to go into the milling business. With a deep anchorage available, he built his mill and wharf. Local farmers brought their crops to the mill to be processed, and so a local meeting place came to be. Brackman decided a post office would attract further business, so in the spring of 1884, he requested the establishment of a post office. On May 1st 1884, he opened the North Saanich post office in his mill.
It was about 1961 when I became interested in this line of collecting postal history. I phoned Fred Waters, the Postmaster at Sidney, now a thriving town in the same area, asking him if he knew the location of the North Saanich post office. After some enquiries he referred me to a Mrs.John, an early pioneer.
Much to my surprise, I found that she had owned the site of the North Saanich post office and the Brackman Mill. The old buildings were still intact and she showed me where the old post office had been. A cover she gave me bore a lovely North Saanich cancel. The circle was now complete: 1884 to today. This office, the second one to open on the Saanich peninsula, remained active for several decades and was replaced by the Sidney post office.
The following list of North Saanich Postmasters is from George Melvin’s book, B.C. Post Offices:
North Saanich: Established 1-5-1884, Closed 31-10-1912
H. Brackman 1-5-1884 to 9-9-1892
T.J. Forfar 1-10-1892 to 17-12-1898
I. Wright 1-2-1899 to 18-12-1906
C.I. Brown 12-4-1905 to 18-12-1906
H.A. Pye 1-1-1907 to 20-12-1907
H.A. Watson 1-4-1908 to 15-12-1909
H.A. Pye 1-4-1910 to 31-3-1911
R.B. Horth 1-5-1911 to 8-7-1912
First published in The Guideline, Journal of the VIPS, November 1986
by Lester Small
About Lester Small
From 1984 to 1988, there were a number of articles about Canadian postal history (most of them about British Columbia) in The Guideline, the newsletter of the Vancouver Island Philatelic Society. Almost all of these were written by Lester Small (Member #341). Lester – a clerk at the Victoria Post Office – was also active in the Greater Victoria Philatelic Society. He organized the junior programme of the GVPS, and looked after the junior stamp club for 35 years.