March Farm - A Diamond in the Rough

March Property circa 1915

 

  Situated near the lake on a spectacularly beautiful setting sits the March Meadows nine-hole golf course that is known to some as one of the most challenging courses on Vancouver Island. It has been said that it “has the luxury of being perhaps the best drained course on the Island”, which allows golfers unrestricted use of golf carts on the dampest of days.  When Jim Peterson, Al Vance, his brother Bud Vance along with Norm Boden bought the 149-acre site close to 40 years ago it was still being used as a farm 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, March, who was born in England chose not to follow his father’s footsteps as was expected, instead he ventured out on his own and set sail for Canada. He was just 18. Eventually he found his way to the Cowichan Lake area before settling on a beautiful spot that today is known as Honeymoon Bay. It was here that March developed the land that he was to spend the rest of his life on.

  Possessing the necessary skills required by an early pioneer, he struggled to clear enough land in order to plant crops, raise cattle and build a home and barn. According to Jack Saywell in his book Kaatza: The Chronicles of Lake Cowichan, March and his team of oxen, “cleared and tilled the soil” until it was ready to produce the much needed 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) if that was your destination.

Henry March
  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 named Deeplish and where they toiled for years and “worked out the problems of pioneering together” writes Saywell.

  In 1900 March blazed a walking trail to the Foot, which was used until 1916 when the trail was widened and improved somewhat to allow wheeled vehicles use of the “road”. He constructed the first telephone lines in the vicinity and was to become the first local justice of the peace.

Edith & Henry March
  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 by the fire, which began after a camper’s fire and a slash fire merged then raged out of control.

  The Marches had two sons, Jack, who died in 1925 (he had survived the First World War), and Charlie, who married Alison Pollock in 1932. In 1950 Henry died at the age of 83 seven years after his wife Edith, who died in Maple Bay. Son Charlie died in Chemainus in 1977 at age 78 seven years after his wife Alison. A daughter survived them.

Charlie March

Farm Windmill

  The original farmhouse remains standing today while the fields that once grew Henry’s crops, are home to the golf course. Best of all, most of the land remains ‘green” just as Charlie March had wanted. Now, close to 125 years after Henry March first laid eyes on his homestead at Honeymoon Bay, one can only imagine the sheer utter beauty that March must have seen as he gazed at his Diamond in the Rough.
Deeplish
Copyright c 2002, 2011, Rolli Gunderson