This was the house my great-grandparents lived in after they emigrated to Canada.

Tod House, Victoria, 2008

Victoria Colonist, 13 June 1948

Tod Home

            Oldest House in Greater Victoria in Willows district, on blind-end Heron Street.  It is white-painted, rambling, cottage type, set in a delightful old-world garden where plants and flowers are not prim.  In the neighbourhood it is called “the old Tod House.” 

            It was built in 1851 by John Tod, one of the Hudson’s Bay Company chief traders, in charge of posts at Alexandria and Kamloops, and in 1851 named by Governor Richard Blanshard a member of the first Legislative Council of Vancouver’s Island, sitting with James Cooper and James Douglas, who later added John Work.

            When Tod died at 88, in 1882, The Colonist called him “one of the most remarkable of the hardy old pioneers of the great Northwest.” His funeral took place from the home of his daughter, Mrs. JS Drummond on Rae street (now Courtney.)  He left six sons: Simeon, John, Alexander, Isaac, James and William, and four daughters, Kate (Mrs. TW Gilbert), Emmeline (Mrs Newton later Mrs Mohun), Mary (Mrs John Bowker) and Mrs JS Drummond.  Tod was a wealthy man for his day, and, in addition to his home and acreage at Willows, left $35,000, and legacies of $150 each to BC Benevolent Society and St Joseph’s Hospital.

Once a Dairy Farm

            Simeon Tod rented his father’s house to a man named Costello, who started a dairy farm there.  A short time later, Alfred Dixon Fuller, father of Harry Fuller, of the British Empire Club of Victoria, bought the house and cattle.  Harry Fuller recalled the week he used to drive the milk truck.  In the early nineties the large and well-known Pauline family moved in when the Fullers left.

            Time was when the Tod house sat in the midst of acres of fields and oak groves and the property went clear down to Willows Beach.  The Tod driveway ran to Cadboro Bay Road and poplars line it in stately fashion.  Today the driveway is called Tod Road and dozens of homes are on the Tod fields.

            Through the years the house has been modernized from time to time, though many of the original features are preserved, such as the fireplace of beach boulders in the kitchen.  Around this fireplace, it is said, John Tod entertained his Indian friends from nearby Gulf Islands at Saturday night potlatches which of course, were quiet affairs compared to those on Indian encampments.

Home of Paulines

            For years the house rang with laughter and shook with the rompings of many children.  Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Pauline, he a tall, distinguished, upright figure with white Vandyk and always a flower in his buttonhole, and she a slight, very beautiful dark-eyed, black-haired woman, who was always busy, lived in the house more than a quarter century.  A number of their daughters were married from this house, and in time grandchildren called at “granpa’s farm,” as they called it; it was a long way out of town, even in the nineties, and a visit there was a big event, for there were apple trees to climb, a fine beach  just across the fields.  And there were Indians wrapped in blankets spearing fish down by the rocks.

            One of the Pauline daughters, Mrs. H N. Short, of Victoria, recalls the first time the family saw Indians.  The youngsters were frightened, but their mother smiled at them and made them her friends.

            “Mother worried terribly about the Indian women when they had their babies in tents on the beach- no blankets, no beds, no warmth.”  Mrs. Short says today.  “I remember mother taking blankets and eggs from the house and going to visit the Indian women on the beach- and poking the blankets and the eggs under the tents.  Those Indians were always a worry to mother, but father used to tell her they were quite happy.  But she never saw how they could be.”

Came from England.

            Mr. and Mrs. Pauline and their daughters and youngest son arrived in Victoria from England in 1888.  Mrs. Short remembers the day the family reached Victoria in the paddle wheel steamer RP Rithet.

            “My older brothers had come out before us,” Mrs. Short says, “Fred came first and he rented a house for us- the Stapleton place on Kings Road.  We were there a short time and then we went to View Street and from there to the old Tod house.

            Mr. Pauline didn’t like the city; he found it too crowded and his children were always catching all sorts of strange diseases.  Once the whole family went down with scarlet fever and were sent to recuperate at the Turgoose farm in Saanich.  It was then Mr. Pauline decided country air would be the best for his family.  He came across the Tod House and immediately bought it from Mr. Fuller, who said the house was so ancient it wasn’t worth much, but the property was nice, and some day would be valuable.  Mr. and Mrs. Pauline, however, promptly fell in love with the old place; it reminded them of England, with wild flowers growing right to the front door and trees brushing the roof when the sea winds blew from the gulf.

            “It was a dear old place,” Mrs. Short says.  “We were happy there.  Mother and father once moved away; they bought property at Burnside and built a house and lived there.  But they were never happy away from the sea and that old house, and after a year we moved them back again.  Then they were happy and well.”

Walked for Miles

            The Pauline family walked to town in those days.  Mr. Pauline came in nearly every day to pick up his mail.  There were farms in the Willows area and in the Uplands, just about where the Yacht Club is today, was a slaughter house with a kill every Friday.  Mrs. Short remembers the stampeding cattle on slaughter days.

            “Many were the times we youngsters used to hide under the old wooden bridge near the Willows Inn and just shake with fright as those cattle raced helter-skelter over our heads” she says.

            In the Pauline days the old Tod House was a lively place.  There were always friends driving out for picnic teas.  The daughters sang and played the piano and there were musical evenings around the fireplace in Winter and sing-songs in the gardens in Summer.  There were the comings and goings of married sons and daughters and their families, and there was always courting in the parlor and under the apple trees, for there were attractive daughters at home and they had beaus-a-plenty.  Mrs. Pauline used to say there were few women who had arranged as many weddings as she.

Sisters are married

            Two of the Pauline sisters married brothers, George and Charles Gardiner.  In October 1889, came the first wedding of a Pauline daughter in Victoria.  (The oldest girl Louise, married in England and never came here.)  The Colonist said: “A very pretty wedding was that of Miss Bessie Pauline and Mr. WS Goodwin, of the Hudson’s Bay Company, in Christ Church, Rev. H Kingham officiating.  The bride was attended by her three sisters, while her brother presided at the organ.  The flowers, dresses and wedding etceteras were unusually handsome.”

            The next year, September 11, 1890, The Colonist reported: “Still another of Victoria’s fair daughters has bestowed her hand and heart upon the object of her affections.  Mr. CF Gardiner and Miss Amy Pauline were made one at the altar of Christ Church Cathedral by Rev. Henry Kingham.  The bride, who was elegantly attired, was attended by Misses Florence Pauline, Abbie Gardiner, Violet Pauline, S Pauline, Nelly Pauline and Polly Pauline, the last two-named juveniles comporting themselves in the most staid and dignified manner, appearing to fully appreciate the importance of the life contract at whose assumption they were assisting.  Mr. P Lowe acted as best man.  After the ceremony the wedding party adjourned to the house of the bride’s father, where a merry concourse sat down to the wedding feast and shared in the subsequent festivities.”

Rise in politics

            That year too, one of the sons, FA, later to attain prominence as MLA for Saanich, Speaker of the Legislature and British Columbia agent-general in London was married.  The Colonist said: “Christ Church was crowded to overflowing , the occasion being the marriage of Mr. FA Pauline of Messrs J Piercy and Company, to Miss Charlotte Mary, eldest daughter of Mr. George Mesher, the well-known architect.  The bride wore a costume of white satin, trimmed with orange blossoms.  The groom was supported by Mr. Charles Braund.  The bridesmaids, of whom there were six: Misses Tillie, Alice and Lizzie Mesher, and Misses Amy, Florence and Violet Pauline, were dressed in pink cashmere, prettily trimmed with flowers.”

            In January of 1898, there were two weddings from “the old Tod house”- old then, nearly 50 years old, before the turn of the century, Marion Pauline became the wife of Mr. Robert M Williams, of Kaslo, and Florence Pauline was married to George Gardiner, bookkeeper for Messrs Pither and Leiser.  Mr. Max Leiser was groomsman and the bride had her unmarried sisters in her retinue.

            The father and mother of this family of 13 lived to great ages.  Mr. Pauline died at his Heron Street home in 1918, when he was 84.  His widow went then to live with one of her daughters, Mrs. Charles Gardiner.  She died in 1921 at 84 at the Gardiner residence on Fairfield Road, adjoining the home of another daughter, Mrs. George Gardiner, on Pakington Street.  A few days before, one of her sons, George, organist for many years at Christ Church, had died but the old lady was not told.  Both Mr. and Mrs. Pauline lived to see 32 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

            Jack Pauline and his family remained in the Tod house for some years.  Since then a number of people have lived there.  It is now occupied by Col. And Mrs TC Evans, who are intrigued by the history of the place and can tell interesting stories.

Historic plaque at Tod House, Victoria
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