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Tony Luton

The Blackburn House

This recording is part of the Salt Spring Island Historical Society Collection and comprises an address to its members, entitled ‘The Blackburn House’.
Tony Luton gives some details about the Blackburn family, the house they built and some information about the Cranberry area of Salt Spring Island.

Accession Number 989.031.055 Interviewer Mary Davidson
Date February 12, 1990 Location Cassette tapes box File #24 to File #48 Shelf 8C
Media Audio CD
ID 49 Topic




Unknown Speaker 0:00
For 18 years, and actually tell me that's the longest anybody's lived in that house, for what you know one family lived in the house. A number of years ago, we decided we would look into the history of it, we found terribly difficult, because nobody remembers anything about the old back farmhouse It was first and tried to do. Very few people living that could remember anything about it, you just remember Oh, stories. The farm originally was two sections of land up there stretching right from the cranberry to the cushioned Lake and right out to do the road, the whole thing. And it's in the center of the island. When we went there first, though, was a marker just down the road from the old house, which said this is this, this is the center of Saltspring Island, this marker can has disappeared over the years. They the Blackburn's because they were right in the center of the island. We're not at a South Saltspring Island is no North Saltspring Island. And in those days, the the hill there was the dividing line between even when we came here 25 years ago, you're either belong to the community of South Saltspring Island or community of North banana. But the Blackburn's being in the middle just didn't belong to either. They're very, very quiet and retiring capital. And so that nobody really knew much about them. The house was built in 19 108. So record set. And the there is a story about it that just after it was completed, it was burnt down again and rebuilt on the same site. And also, they also said that the time of the far the third was rushed into the house and took out all the packing cases of silver fired off to the fathers, the packing cases were empty. This is just stories we hear about that Ben died in 911. And that was one of the biggest funerals on the island. He was a Catholic and he's in he's buried in corporate cemetery. This the funeral was on actually the same day as obey canon was born. So this is how we knew about the was the biggest funeral on the island up to date, and the carriages and carts stretched right down the Blackbird. On that day, he left masses of deaths for his wife. And she proceeded to pay all her debts except for the taxes on the on the property. So that when she she left the island at the end of the 20s, the government took over the house. She came from a well to do family and she had married a young officer in the services. And I felt family would have nothing to do with him after she married. She was very gracious lady, and they had service maths services in the house in their own private chapel. And she gave a brunch to everybody that came. She also would change every evening for herself. After the Blackburn Blackburn's left the house really went downhill. The government used it for training people how to survive in the land in the 30s in the 20, late 20s and 30s. When the government took over the house, they cut it all up into small rooms and there was dozens of little rooms all over the house. And that sort of sort of what has happened after this was over the it was just can't take care taken by the Collins brothers who lived at that time and the child property. And you'll notice whatever the columns when they put in masses of daffodils and that's why the road up to the house is daffodils over the stadium. The story goes that they kept the Collins kept pigs and sheep in the house. But after that it really did become a derelict with a broken windows and children that went to the old device school was on the Blackburn road wouldn't go near it they thought it was haunted. After that, it's the government didn't do much with it until after the war when they renovated it and a family the name of Moore's Law looked after and trained young people to farm. This is about all we know about it until 1948 When The competencies brought in. And since then it's been in private hands. They did, they renovated it, and we went there in 1962. And we did do quite a lot to the renovation of it. But it's not the house it was originally. And many times, we could see where the balconies had been filled in. And it was a, there was a balcony all the way around direction. And these all been filled in and made into rooms. And downstairs, those, you know, a row of of washrooms and things like that the government will put the outside is now has been pretty well, the same since we had when we were there. When we first came, they were these photographs, you will see the front stairs, right the way up these stairs became rocking, and we decided to take them in, and we filled in this front balcony. And so this is all part of the room inside. The chapel was in the big room, if anybody's ever been into the old house, there's a big room. And the chapel was in one end. And Chuck Hall told me that there were some statues in there for many, many years that he could remember that you could see through the windows. This is where the chapel was. And it was a little room upstairs, which the the priest would go up and changing. And then there was a door on the side of the house. And people came in. It was we found out the chapel was never a day as a chapel. But it was a private chapel. And so they could have services and really not an awful lot of history to the house. It's supposed to be a copy of her home in Scotland. And somebody many many years ago did show me a photograph of this house Scotland. And it will be like the Blackford house, except that it was all built in stone. There's two photographs here. One will be a second, which is in the back. And this. We didn't do much for that. This you will notice the front one here. This was taken by a really sister in law and sets up the front of the steps. Okay, Rocky, so we decided in this interview. The house hadn't been kept as it originally was. So there was no object and tried to keep it. So we just needed more convenience.

Unknown Speaker 7:44
The beautiful trees. Beautiful avenue of trees. There the the maples? Yes. I don't know what when whether they were put in. I imagine there must have been because there's no more Maples around. Yes. We've been fighting with the road people for years over there. Trying to keep the Yeah. Oh, yes, definitely. Yes. There was a Reverend Peter McCollum and he organizing. And yes, he used to play to play cricket. I understand when the black ones were there. They had two fabulous gardens all the way around. And they had exotic plants from all over the world. But this is sort of stories you hear. We have no proof of anything. This is awfully difficult when you start delving people Oh, I remember that. Nobody seems to have the proof was even difficult to find the actual date of when it was built. I mean if you build a house today it's all written down when it was you got the permit to build it. But in those days you just felt nobody seemed to know no one thing about how staging a house boring when they opened it up in 1912. Yes, and there was about 18 inches of snow or something. We wanted to have the house and I understand that Quincy had a terrific New Year's Eve party there and everybody's got snowed in a design but it did that fairly does get a lot of snow up there and we record always to be snowed in for two weeks every year. Yes, very favorite trick. I know that. Yeah. But if anybody else has got any information about it, you know? That's where we are now eight and nine. There's no But then again you see somebody told us I think it was Ted Brown told us have you been burned down but then we couldn't sort of pin it down nobody seems to know what

Unknown Speaker 10:17
it is economy. Yes, Connery

Unknown Speaker 10:29
was another there was you see my new houses? There was a farmhouse just there. And then there was another farmhouse opposite deals schoolhouse yes it was the old schoolhouse was still there when we first met and that got burned down the old divide schoolhouse lot of people remember go to school they're

Unknown Speaker 11:02
just reading joke on the pages about Joe Garner and went to Catholic services in that house

Unknown Speaker 11:17
you've got to realize that the old Neil main routes road from shorefront went up and over the divide you see that? They do the divided road came right down to the Blackburn road and they went goes right past my house. That is the old four foot main road

Unknown Speaker 11:41
long hill so that's

Unknown Speaker 11:49
what do you didn't live up that into the island? No, no, my sister

Unknown Speaker 11:55
used to walk on the trampoline our

Unknown Speaker 12:03
families and bases have been going to the device to have another tree of miles to get to the school goes a long way from this road up to the schools.

Unknown Speaker 12:17
I suppose that was the nearest school to that better divide when it comes down to again just is now just tread trail that used to be where they tried the old cars. Yes, it was the main road. And that's what divided the school so much because of this. The hill there. I mean, he sort of kept one side or the other. side. I said there's not an awful lot to be found out about the old house. Would you say when? When was the property divided the two sections or two Section property? Yeah, there were two Section property. And we originally had 350 acres. Jack Webster. Yes. No, no, that was Damascus, Damascus. No. Damascus came down. I know to the scene. That's Mrs. horo. Natalie Hora was a Damascus and she needs to come down. And they used to come down because they were Cathy sounded cheerful. Know that? I suppose it originally must have been as they went up to the Dylan's remember Dr. bajillions. That's when right up there or to the crammed. It took in all that area. Right down the cranberry to the divide road I suppose.

Unknown Speaker 13:49
Yes, well, I don't know why we have 300. But they had two sections. Originally, when it was first subdivided. I should imagine she sold it off when she was paying off the debts in the 20s. And I shouldn't have I believe it was subdivided and sold off for $1 maker

Unknown Speaker 14:15
I think I think it was rented to people. And it was rented to quite a few people. And it wasn't actually the government have really taken it for taxes and I suppose Norway, could they sell it even? And they did all the clearing. When the Blackburn's were there. There was not an awful lot of land clear. There was the government with all these students clearing the land but there was a fob to see there was it was cleared up onto the on the on the main floor the Ganges River was cleared up bad, but not where the house was. But I mean you only think about the main road Being there and the school that it was very I mean wasn't like

Unknown Speaker 15:15
this to us was one there's two wells opposite me on that piece of that piece of land. Yes I'm trying to think of the name of the people that price prices that through the two brothers of a twins price brothers it was twins well yeah, yes it's right. They were twins were their brothers and it was it they had they said they had the farmhouse up on the main over Ganges road. Well, you know, just just fine just opposite. No, not on the same side as me. Yes. Yeah. And they and there was a, I did read a story in the island or you know, the communist island about a murder being committed in that farmhouse. And the wife and the half have murdered her husband and this was in and they disappeared afterwards. But she had to come back and they came back and I think they were both Yes, yes. It was up on that property just on the May the fourth weekend it was on the corner of the old for for Ganges road just there's there's two one well there was one up near the Blackbirds but they said they used to take us to fetch the water from that well we use still use just near the Blackfoot and take the water to the school every day and we had to take a bucket we used to cook over the world used to run dry so I was told

Unknown Speaker 17:18
no yeah well the pan of bird is on the Blackfoot itself was a small property just a pretty new device cool up John as long

Unknown Speaker 17:41
as it's a different view and then there was a was a little house just further on than us. Before you get to Webster's on the on the left hand side and all that was left was the chimneys and there must have been somebody living about but I understand the two farmhouses on the on the on the property when Blackburn he had them knocked down the two old farmhouses because there's no sign of any no sign of any

Unknown Speaker 18:22
Dr. Alan Carr when he died, his ashes spread congra came to see us

Unknown Speaker 18:37
and spread them on the properties Yes, very close to your present Well, some people say the old house was haunted. Used to feel required to there was quite a pleasant feeling about it always as if it might have been haunted. Came up one day to school and complained to be making so much noise and he doesn't get it he was he was not very easy man. Won't be able to see all the military and

Unknown Speaker 19:13
even we're doing the original family portraits. The names of the family we're doing Central House at Central Christopher wondering when you went from Dante's over the divider before you think that there was an Obi Wan back over there with something else in that house or wherever the house is? have something on there for a while that's been a big stone she wasn't afraid to stand down and then go on the switch

Unknown Speaker 20:34
Yes, and then they were up on them they were up on the camera when we came in we always wished we'd sort of got more details for him before he died nobody else seems to know

Unknown Speaker 20:53
about all that content everybody seems to do more than I do

Unknown Speaker 20:59
well, thank you very very much Tony for stimulating meeting so well it's I think it's I suppose to a lot of a lot of people I think it's fairly recent history but you have a map of that the first focus

Unknown Speaker 21:21
what I mean it's done the old maps is on the old map Yes, because that for forgetting to learn has changed even since we were we've since eaten and used to go out to the different angles fake opposite the cushion lady used to come in the road and knock down went down from there and then closely the old road goes straight past straight up my driveway that's the old road and then when it gets to the Choose back when make road it's right on that sharp corner and then it goes straight with straight on up and up the hill device. But the old divide road there is is just a track you can get off the truck

Unknown Speaker 22:17
and discuss concern with bicycles with Sanford you making go forward or not. There's so many people contributing their memories. But is it is it more a lot of that where people

Unknown Speaker 22:40
did this come up in connection with Bob Edelman's talk. Verizon belly essentially what happened at that point? He put down on a massive