Early pioneers

Early pioneers

March Farm: Diamond in the rough changes hands

The pristine site must have appeared as a diamond in the rough to pioneer Henry March, when he first viewed the land in 1887.

Four of Rolli’s more popular columns, first appearing in the Gazette a decade ago, will run again, as updated version’s throughout August and September.

For more photos check out kaatzamuseum.ca and click on Kaatza Connections by Rolli Gunderson.

 

Situated near the lake on a spectacularly beautiful setting sits March Meadows nine-hole golf course, which is known as one of the most challenging courses on Vancouver Island. It has been said that the course “has the luxury of being perhaps the best drained course on the Island,” which allows golfers unrestricted use of golf carts on even the dampest of days.

When Jim Peterson, Al Vance, Bud Vance, and Norm Boden bought the 149 acre March farm site around 1970 it was still being used to graze cattle much as it had been since prior to the turn of the 20th century.

The pristine site must have appeared as a diamond in the rough to its original owner, pioneer Henry March, when he first viewed the land in 1887.

The son of a lawyer, the English born March chose not to follow his father’s footsteps, as was expected. Instead he ventured out on his own and set sail for Canada at age 18.

Eventually he found his way to the Cowichan Lake area before settling on a beautiful wilderness spot that today is known as Honeymoon Bay. It was here that March developed the land and where he and his wife were to spend the rest of their lives.

Henry March and Miss Edith Wardroper, who lived with her brother and sister-in-law across the lake beyond Youbou, were married September 1, 1893 at St. James Church in Victoria. After the marriage they returned to the homestead, which they called Deeplish and where they toiled for years “working out the problems of pioneering together,” wrote Jack Saywell in his book Kaatza: The Chronicles of Lake Cowichan.

Possessing the necessary skills required by early pioneers, the Marches struggled to clear enough land in order to plant crops, raise cattle and build a home and barn.

According to Saywell, March and his team of oxen, cleared and tilled the soil until it was ready to produce the necessary crops. At that time the only way in or out of the farm was by boat to the foot of the Lake (the settlement of Lake Cowichan), then a rough trail ride to Duncan’s (as Duncan was then called) and beyond.

In 1900 March blazed a trail to the foot, which was used until 1916 when the trail was widened and somewhat improved, allowing wheeled vehicles (mostly stages coaches and wagons) to use the “road.”

He also constructed the first telephone line in the vicinity and was to become the first local justice of the peace.

In 1908, the farm was nearly consumed by a raging forest fire that destroyed millions of feet of virgin timber stretching from Beaver Lake (situated between the town of Lake Cowichan and Mesachie Lake) to the Robertson River Valley and Gordon Bay. The Cowichan Lumber Company at Gordon Bay (near the March farm), a private residence, and some of March’s outbuildings were destroyed in the fire, which began after a camper’s fire and a slash fire merged and raged out of control.

The Marches had two sons, Jack, who died in 1925 — after surviving the First World War —  and Charlie, who married Alison Pollock in 1932. In 1950 the original pioneer, Henry, died at the age of 83, seven years after his wife Edith, who died at Maple Bay. In 1977 at the age of 78, their son Charlie died in Chemainus, seven years after the death of his wife Alison. A daughter and her family, and his second wife Diana survived him.

The original farmhouse remains standing today while the fields that once grew Henry’s crops are home to the golf course. Much of the former farmland remains green just as the Marches had wanted.

Today, 125 years after Henry March first laid eyes on his future homestead at Honeymoon Bay, one can only imagine the sheer and utter beauty that March must have seen as he gazed at his diamond in the rough.

2012 Update: Earlier this year, long time March Meadows Golf Course owners, Jim and Carol Peterson, sold the golf course.

 

 

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