A Vargas Island Rancher in Saanich

Illustrated presentation, Saanich Archives / Greater Victoria Public Library

The hilarious image of Stella and Fred Hopkins got a lot of audience comments!

In the early 1900s, Freeman “Fred” Hopkins, an English emigrant, was homesteading on the Canadian Prairies in Saskatchewan. A few years later, he had sold the farm and moved to Saanich, then took out a pre-emption of land on Vargas Island in Clayoquot Sound. During 1912-1916 Hopkins exchanged letters with the Walter Dawley, owner of the Clayoquot Store — most often about Hopkins’ unpaid bills and plans to mortgage his property. When Hopkins returned from overseas military service, he settled in back in Saanich, where in 1921 he was a recipient of a Saanich Soldier’s Home. But in 1929, he started exchanging letters with the Municipality of Saanich — about unpaid house mortgage payments. Fred’s original letters, family photos, land records and archives documents brought to life this often amusing and exasperating parallel story.

Assisted by the Saanich Archives, I shared this story in an illustrated presentation “A Vargas Island Rancher in Saanich”. The audience was enthusiastic, and one audience member was a former neighbour of Fred Hopkins’ widow. To my surprise, I was given a silver spoon that had belonged to Mrs. Hopkins!