Salt Spring Island Archives

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Gwen Ruckle (1931-)

This tape is part of the Salt Spring Island Historical society Collection and comprises an address to its members.
Gwen Ruckle outlines the history of the family from the 18th Century, giving details of the family's arrival on Salt Spring in 1872, with the first pre-emption of land. Farming over the years is described.

Accession Number Interviewer interview as program for Hist Soc meeting
Date Location
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ID 3B Topic




Unknown Speaker 0:00
this much of this you want to hear I have

Unknown Speaker 0:12
I have the history of just this the farm here I have a history that was drawn up in Ontario of the Rocco family starting back in 1709 you want you want me to go back to the roots or do you want to just deal with the with the

Unknown Speaker 0:46
Well, I have to read this again. So brief sketch of the histories of the record Switzer family now this was a group. Let's all at the same time these people as is not generally known are not originally Irish but German forefathers coming from the values Orion and here 1709. The story of their migration is an interesting and important one. They were known in history as Palatines under so called because it was governed by rule of varying the title count Palatine. A number of the principal cities of Germany were included in this protectorate, warm, Heidelberg Mannheim another important center. The Valley of the Rhine has been for centuries a land of contest, the armies of France and Germany had soaked sort of other blood. For 200 years, these wars continued until during the era of Louie the 14th conditions became so intolerable that 1000s of the inhabitants were compelled to leave all Iraqi possessions and flak for their lives. Many of their hardships was a result of their religious beliefs. They having become Protestant under the rigid movement known as a Lutheran Reformation. Many shipload went to New York, Pennsylvania and Carolina. 1000s under great hardship landed in England where they were charitably cared for. And at the invitation of Queen Anne and her parliament, live were 600 families passed over to Ireland and located in the county of Limerick. A plot of land was assigned to each family at moderate rental houses were built for them and they were given considerable consideration in many ways. They were largely located on the state of Lord Southborough. An interesting sideline here we have a book man has a book written by Martin Luther, when he visited these German families when they were on the stage, so an interesting sidelight to this was never quite resented by the Irish people who'd always told everybody the soil was impoverished and wouldn't grow anything and the Germans came along, and even the women for heaven's sakes, got up with teams of horses and plowed the lands and made it through all sorts of things. Liberal produce war, they weren't very possible. Here the Germans continued for nearly a century to preserve their distinct identity, customs, language and literature, especially the use of the German Bible. Without exercising any wild influence upon Irish Life, they were honorably distinguished from a population around them by far higher standards of severity, industry and comfort. As agriculturalists they were greatly superior to the natives. It is said they were of a distinctive foreign take on features and they're strongly built, darkened complexion dark haired and brown eyed. As many of the switcheroo descendants are fair, no doubt it's a strain of Celtic blood to the mix and the hereditary. Among the Palatines of Limerick we come on the names of Rocco, perhaps originally called rutile, and Switzer. In the course of John Wesley's evangelistic labors in Ireland, he learned to the photons and visited them and reinstituted revival services sending some of his co workers to carry on the work. Among their many converts was Barbara Rocco. He was married to Paul hack in 1760 and became the most prominent and important leader I recall a time associated with Paul Hackworth Philip Embrey, a cousin of bourbon he had married in 1758. Mary Switzer. Philip Andrea was a candidate for the Methodist ministry, but was held for local service in the Belen green community. A few years later, the two families moved to New York and the New York World with characteristic human tendencies a little colony soon began to fall into irreligious wait. This greed Barbara so deeply that on one occasion, she swept the cards from the table where a number of young men were playing. To Barberton treaty Philip Embry was induced to open religious surfaces. A humble stay aloft was a place of first meeting. This was the first messenger service held on the American continent. that has grown the great Methodist Church of this hemisphere. Later at the breaking out of the revolution, the embrace and the hex with their families because of their loyalties, the British government moved to Upper Canada and settled in the gusta Renville County and they're made for themselves the primitive wild new homes will remain to the cause of their lives. The names of many branches as a record and foot your families may be found in different parts of Ontario's back there on Belleville and Kingston. A close and direct connection between trusted public without doubt between the records and switches of the two families who came to this community the switches in 1848 in the record in 1849. They then he goes on to give a lot of small notes about there are still two sisters in Ireland. Daniel Rocko, came out in 1849. He and his wife with five boys and four girls. The big family and the sweaters came out at the same time. Well, they had three only three boys and seven girls. But it was quite interesting in the German families that they mentioned here the embryos and so on, we have had contact with several of these families in the last two or three years. We're doing research MPs, sweatshirts and families into marriage even in Ontario for another generation. So that was really spreads very complicated. Going back into the family history because you've got one point over here and then back again. My great grandfather came up from Ontario in the 1860s to California. And then in August 31 1872. He filed the first preemption and 27 acres where the farmhouse is now. On September the 16th 1880 and other 338 acres was purchased and registered at $1 An acre big break. On February the 22nd 1881. Another 330 Day grid was purchased and registered to a year this will further date from missing well since this was written the historical branches of government have done a lot of research they have actually have it finished but they don't have a copy and they have researched all the land bees know who owns them before and the ones that were preempted from them gumbo bought them eventually have it 95 Beyond 1000 acres. First house was built about 1876 and he married Eleni Christiansen, who was Norwegian the red four children Albert, Ella, Agnes and Daniel Henry and Henry was my grandpa. Alfred and Daniel Henry stayed on the farm. Alfred had no children. Daniel Henry had four children, Gordon, Norman, Ella Anna or Nam and Helen Gordon and his family Anantha live here well. Henry rock was involved in developing the district in several ways. He was appointed in the August 13 1877 to form a court of revision for the polling district. So bring islands and so it should be so soft. You wrote for him and trustee in 1892. Well, you wrote for him for five years. I've been the postmaster for be reporting for several years. And initially I'll probably do some supplies you're transported by robot to and from Sydney by whaler to and from us Minster. They actually used to take the lounge and roll. They were winner. Landon wrote us minster with this.

Unknown Speaker 9:25
One they wonder one young man are doing the research for the historical branch in Victoria. He came across a survey book 1874 surveyor that was doing the coastline, golfing, and that summer he stayed with grandpa. In the first first little house he built on the original 27 acre preemption and in the margin of his survey book. For some strange reason he had written the fact that it did assist Mr. Rucker who had

Unknown Speaker 10:02
17 things.

Unknown Speaker 10:05
And I forgotten several headers of stock. It didn't say whether they were sheep or cow. But it was a fascinating little note did he just suddenly spotted in the survey but that's the first indication we had the grandpa actually had built a house and had animals here. Because we had understood up to learn that while he had the land he was working in Victoria. So he was just sort of going back and forth. Way over at 95 mixed farming with cattle, sheep, pigs, turkeys and chickens and crops wheat, peas, hay turnip. 60 tonne of turnips at 95. And potatoes were well underway as well as an orchard of about 600 trees. At 95 Good could be shipped to Victoria and Nanaimo by the USS John Doerr has been built to be the point. Actually my great grandfather who helped build war. hired help us to clear the big timber in the beginning and either hired help for day labor help work the field. Alfred and Henry worked the farm together following their father's death in 1913. Someday labor help until Henry Boyd Gordon and Norman were old enough to help their father and uncle Alfred sold his half interest in 1943 to the family that lived on the farm and helped with the planting and harvesting buddies time and woodworking in violin milking. Well, as you can see, he's got a lot of times when the woodworking This is hand hewn timbers This is black walnut maple which he cut by hand, claimed by hand treated by him. It's all from the farm. Uncle thought nothing of staying up until three o'clock in the morning working as a violin or whatever. Mind you might not get up breakfast but 11 The next day but minor detail. The same general crops were grown over the years with more emphasis on cattle and sheep. There's only enough grain and hay to supply the feed. dairy cattle were kept for a long time with a switch to beef cattle during the 1940s. The sale of apples and pears diminished with the Okanagan apples supplying the market except for Bartlett pears which were sold of the Sydney Camry until the close and I can't remember what year that was going they wouldn't tell me when Sydney can recall you know

Unknown Speaker 12:37
whether they're

Unknown Speaker 12:43
pleased Don't sorry. I didn't know the last week cattle were sold in 1975. That was because I said I didn't want to look after cow as well as farming and Randy son Gordon and Norman for many years did custom butchering of cattle pork and lamb for the Victorian market. Also seed potatoes were grown for the Ladner potatoes shored up about 35 tonnes a year. One year there was a crop of 73 tons. I remember that one. They planted all one field out here. I don't know why they got men got too ambitious. But they planted the rolls the length of the field. This is a half mile no endless. discouraging you could do two rows in the morning in about four rows in the afternoon. And I don't know there's something a little psychological and you're breaking up the data is about getting to the end of starting another roll. But when you start at the end and the other end is over there somewhere, it wasn't fun at all. As a matter of fact, we partner got rained out that year the last 10 rows the middle of the road got wet and we had to dig them with a fork and pick them up in the mud. And that wasn't fun at all. Gradually the number of sheep was increased and the amount of potatoes decreased with only enough grain and hay to supply feed. Horses were used for all the field work until the late 40s When the first small tractor was purchased. A large tractor has been used as a stationary engine for many years to run this washing machine insolence cutter feed mill and so on. Well they had that was an Avery huge thing. metal wheel. When I was a little girl I couldn't remember this because we always grew corn. We had two big saddles. We always grew corn for the dairy cattle and run insolence gutter the Avery had to be brought from the other upper barn down where the well men just weren't it was an army of tanks. Not just one tractor. It was a really no no kid this is really something they crank this thing up and it took about 15 minutes to get down the laneway you thing blowing its way along. It was very efficient. Unfortunately, I think in a way my grandfather decided to do Saanich agricultural society got dizzy here a few years and started running up machinery and so on, and I believe they have no museum. I'm sure that I know no, there are days when my uncle would have thrown overboard when he tried to start it. It started with a great big metal lever had a flywheel on it nice dip this lever and spun the flywheel get went even though it became a park in 1973 200 acres 200 acres were in a primary reserve and planned to keep it as a farm in some forms always at present. There are 120 sheets, which supplied 124 lands to the market. This is 83 Well, it's 100 the present time we have 175 lambs this year the hay crop was over 2000 bales, no potato crop and 900 the remaining 996 acres was about 100 acres develop and the rest while we have the park is sort of got a new manager this year and he's got great plans to putting in more hiking trails. But restraint this in a way

Unknown Speaker 16:41
it's proven very interesting proving very, very satisfactory arrangement for everyone. No, that's the basic coverage. Anybody got any questions anything you'd like to be filled in? Buildings houses or whatever

Unknown Speaker 16:59
the other people live down here beside directly if there was a dark well the

Unknown Speaker 17:06
next neighbors were over here the Papenburg family were just a mile away and then next pulses for the monks. And then McClellan's which is where Stevens are now there was wasn't that many families have another spike in London triggers we turned to property below one school is they had all of that and they had 1400 fruit trees there was a lot of merch you know a lot of crops grown that time and there was a lot of free there wasn't that many families but there was a lot of projects already isolated. Were what to do with the hired help fund to get the hire down so far. Well, one good question like was grandpa originally hired Japanese when they did do some of the heavy clearing? They weren't for 50 cents a day on their rice. But they were itinerant, I don't know just for this dude. To be honest, they had one Japanese man and wife who lived for a long time they had a little cabin out in the pasture and they were here for several years. He helped but mostly it would just be like Mr. King used to come and help the day with his horses different people like them and then of course later on when I remember everybody had car so we got price brothers leaves How did you turn up here? Well, I remember we had to potato digger. They used to plow them out to begin with and when I remember we had a special digger that that brings them up and lay them out on the road with the tops on us give our initial job was to go along and remove all the top so it was faster to pick them up and then when you finish shaking top human bag and help pick up the data backwards to let you was it was good fun. When was this house 1907 My grandfather and uncle offered built their houses the same year in 1907. They moved into 1908 An uncle was working on this one actually he finished them hallway about 1930 they sort of finished a couple of rooms and then just kept working on

Unknown Speaker 19:44
the dock would that be built by the government?

Unknown Speaker 19:48
He built it originally and then it was taken over by the government to become a government not quite ready for yeah Thanks. I don't know that I've got the exact date on the first court around in the post office was saying no post office came about. Somebody asked me the other day there was a Mr. Goode who built the building originally with a store in the post office. And he had the first tour was around 1901 But grandfather had the post office before that the 1877 letters 1880 letters all went to Burgoyne Bay. And when the first post office was here, be refined. I don't know I don't be Hamilton says he was appointed 1984 Yeah, well mr. McClellan was to and I don't want to miss the time it came first or when the grandfather you know, at that point forward I don't know they weren't they sort of non grandfather my grandfather had him as well. Did you get there? When I first remember it was three times a week. Tuesdays Thursdays and Saturdays. Yeah, game fashion. I used to come on the old Princess Mary and Mr. Pirate went up again Jason was brought down sorted and

Unknown Speaker 21:15
did they ship many logs from this point remains

Unknown Speaker 21:21
well you they only logs the ones that were the ones that log well that's gonna say only ones that went off this place but I think they did dump other logs to deal with when the log dump was put in when they logged here in 1946 40. So quite recently, they have a bill or Bowman's had a meltdown a question code earlier but I don't 1920 and had a big one a deep sea boats could go right in a lot longer but there was only one problem with pier wasn't built solidly enough to collapse and collapse the whole thing collapsed they just gave it up rose lumber here this came in tremendous

Unknown Speaker 22:07
ways it be brought all the way around

Unknown Speaker 22:11
I guess 2014 as a shorthand Well, I don't I have no the actual documentation but I have some of it and I'll go we said that the House and the windows lumber for the whole house and the windows gutting $750 Oh no. cost nearly that much to buy the stain when they repainted it two years ago well, Uncle Alfred collectability started in 1913 and he just spent a lifetime collecting because he got most of them either from people who wanted the newer gun and he repaired one sale for mostly he got them through the gun shops in Victoria he left our list with them of what he was looking for. And when they got one in they let him know on hunting on me he did a certain amount of hunting and he did a lot of trap shooting. Like clay pigeon. very keen on that he had he'll perform one of the original gun flops and

Unknown Speaker 23:33
let's seal this one.

Unknown Speaker 23:34
So somebody 90 went live from Vienna

Unknown Speaker 23:41
was that in the family or No? No.

Unknown Speaker 23:43
Well, I don't know where he got it from. So I'm thinking I'm sorry about that I didn't pay more attention when he was alive to really get some of the history on because he didn't write it down. And I've had to go do my research. But they go from 7090 to 1900 Actually the the history of the gun the development of the gun right through that slot builders that well it This is a replica of the oldest mechanism it's a replica making it twice

Unknown Speaker 24:19
an interesting selection theory to get into Yes. Got to got very excited about

Unknown Speaker 24:29
that you have an interesting collection of Indian artifacts to them to like to them this land.

Unknown Speaker 24:34
Yeah, so it's about 500 They're nearly all just hunting points. So there's no I don't have any fancy things like barbecue anchors.

Unknown Speaker 24:45
Remember, you told me once you thought they came here and fought their battles.

Unknown Speaker 24:48
That was high that you know it's a landlocked thing. I think they drove the game down into the valley.

Unknown Speaker 25:01
They use ox teams

Unknown Speaker 25:05
I have a training we have a training you're still done on getting a bit motivated in

Unknown Speaker 25:16
the beginning what was the orchard here you mentioned 600 apple trees while you still remains there the main road goes through but they take we took out two orchards all together that he pulled them up we original trees

Unknown Speaker 25:41
market Victorian anomala Vancouver cumin we didn't ship left to Vancouver but pretty well all went Victorian you still go through your own news oh yeah well not really we just sort of well some people come and get what they want some of the trees you're getting see they don't produce a lot well it depends on the season sometimes we have an apartment parish to feed half the selves into the island last year we had enough for ourselves we don't bother with we don't attempt to look after what's going on? Did they grow Graham's thing the orange dip and the lemon tip and Baldwin What about pins? No, no welcome hammer instead of having to go for everything there. There's all sorts of weird ones. Left pear trees over the vicar of Wakefield and Bartlett who does all picking up this food? Well when I remember of course from granddad daddy and the kids now noon might fall off I guess for a while I suppose. Grandpa first planted? Well he had her help with the white elephant Henry were big enough. I guess actually, by the time the orchards were in full production they weren't they weren't big enough to affect

Unknown Speaker 27:44
is there going to be any attempt by the park people to have information about the raffle.

Unknown Speaker 27:51
They have a great big thick book. Now where they've got everything I've got the photographs, they've got history, they've got everything they could live their hands on. Complete with photographs, everything that like that. All the research you've done on all the buildings and people I don't think there's anything left they haven't done research. We've been doing it for a year and

Unknown Speaker 28:12
a half. I really hope to sort of make a summary of this for visitors or

Unknown Speaker 28:19
I don't know I tried I didn't find out what he was up the last time they heard the branches keeping one they're giving one to parks and we murmured something at one time about giving me a copy but I don't know when we'll get one but it's certainly it's interesting. It was interesting when he was doing the research the different things he came up with that he found in the archives how they got there maybe

Unknown Speaker 28:51
illustration we know No. Well at one park that we were in I think it was one that was set up by the lumber companies up at the north end of the island they had a very interesting picture that someone had done on the old Indian village places there This makes it much more

Unknown Speaker 29:17
well like know what didn't copy the training I did a painting of river point store and work one time but no, they didn't need it because I had photographs in the Patterson

Unknown Speaker 29:32
would like to photograph to be quite interesting. I'm hoping that they will make one copy available to the public now that they've got to finish because

Unknown Speaker 29:43
yes, very thoroughly

Unknown Speaker 29:45

Unknown Speaker 29:49
My interest would be you could see it in the heritage branch and Victoria.

Unknown Speaker 29:56
I would hope so because not only have they seen it done The history of the family but they've done the history of the buildings and they've got copies of the plans of this house and everything is is complete. So I have nothing to hide love what I presumed would be available to people in the archives

Unknown Speaker 30:20
make the tea carry on. Perhaps perhaps we should just break up enough the formal part of it and

Unknown Speaker 30:33
enjoy some tea and ask questions as we go along. If there are further questions, no wrong.

Unknown Speaker 30:39
Yes, you can look at the photographs. I've put out as many of those as well thank you very, very much.