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Shawnigan's First Dwelling on the Lake

The first dwelling built on the lake was constructed by Richard Halhed.

The Halheds arrived in 1891, a year after the mill went into operation.  Lumber for their house was towed across the lake. The road now known as Renfrew Road was formerly called Halhed Road as it was first built to give the Halheds access to the outlet of the lake.


The following is an excerpt from a letter by Mrs. Beryl M. Cryer’s(nee Halhed) (from Green Branches & Fallen Leaves)

I was about eight years old when we left the Lake, so my memories are a bit hazy and probably most of them are what I have later learned from my parents.

My father, Richmond Beauchamp Halhed, had lived for some years in New Zealand, where my two brothers and I were born. He then returned to England, but I suppose found life too restricted and suddenly announced to my mother that he was going to Canada.


 As in those days wives meekly followed their husbands, my poor mother had no say in the matter, and so it was arranged that he would go first and find a home for his family, my mother to follow with my brothers aged three and five years and I, a baby of one year, and a maid.


Not long after Father left, Mother found she was pregnant and would have to leave as soon as possible. A girl from the village was taken into my grandmother’s home and trained in cooking and housework, and Mother commenced making arrangements for the journey to Vancouver Island.


My Father had led her to believe that they would live in the little town of Victoria, but when she arrived, she found that he had bought land miles from anywhere, at Shawnigan Lake —the attraction being “the shooting and fishing.”


Also, the E. & N. Railway was being pushed through and all settlers’ effects were to be transported free to encourage opening up of the land. The house we were to live in was far from finished—every board and brick had to be taken across the lake on a raft or by rowboat — so they rented a house on Dallas Road, Victoria, and there my sister was born, at the end

of October.


Sometime in November, 1892 (I think), we moved to the Lake, and I remember years later my mother telling me that as she stood beside the railway tracks with her baby in her arms, I clinging to her coat and the two little boys holding Emily’s hands, and surrounded by mountains of luggage, and learned that her home, dimly seen through snowflakes, and  perched up on a rocky point with trees everywhere, could only be reached by row boat, with no road, no neighbors, no shops, she felt life had ended for her and burst into tears.


Our land extended from some distance beyond the Shawnigan Beach Hotel to a good distance beyond the Boys’ School, and where the Shawnigan Beach Hotel now stands there was a small logging camp with two log houses with a sort of enclosed passage between


We were brought up in that wilderness exactly as children in England. We had our nursery where we had our meals and each evening Emily put us into clean clothes—the boys in white sailor suits, and I (and later my sister) in little smocked silk dresses, and we spent the evening with our parents. My father sometimes read to us, or Mother played the piano and Father his flute (which he played very well) and we all sang. We were brought up with a great love for music, as Mother seemed to spend most of her time playing.


When the Halheds left the lake, about 1900, they sold their house, known by them as “The Hall,” to the late Mrs. Michael King. The King family kept the original cabin as best they could until 1978 when it was renovated.  The area has now been sold, subdivided and partially cleared for new housing.

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