Updated: Apr 7
The story of the grand get-away estate of a New York attorney and Presidential Advisor.
"The Newly Weds"
Photo Clip: The Province (1917)
In 1915, 22-year-old Thomas Charlesworth volunteered to join the war effort by signing on with the 88th Battalion Victoria Fusiliers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). He had just arrived in Victoria, BC with his parents in 1909, but he was eager to rejoin his friends back home in England who were already fighting for the cause. Before he was shipped overseas, however, he married his sweetheart and acquired a home in Metchosin where the young couple would live when he returned from war. The seaside house was built in the 1860s by its pioneer settlers and was one of the first homes in the Metchosin area. It was perfect. His young bride took up residence with her parents on Salt Spring Island while her soldier was away and dreamed about the life they would build together in their Metchosin house they called 'Craiglands.'
In 1917, the young soldier's father returned to Victoria after being sent home with injuries from his own war effort overseas. Less than a week later, he received news that his only son, who had joined the Royal Flying Corps while overseas, had perished in action. Young Lieutenant Charlesworth's dream of a life at Craiglands would never come to be, and his widow would carry her young pilot's name until her death at almost 100 years old.
"Vice Admiral Sir Edmund Radcliffe Pears"
Photo: National Portrait Gallery, London
Photographer: Bassano Ltd.
In 1920, Vice Admiral Sir Edmund Radcliffe Pears of Britain's Royal Navy had just completed his duty to the war effort and put in for retirement. He had just been knighted in 1919, but he was eager to get away from it all and spend time with his wife. They had plans to settle in Vancouver, BC, but first stopped in to visit family on Vancouver Island. He had met his wife in 1887 when his ship, the HMS Cormorant, had sailed into Victoria and became the first ship to be put into Esquimalt's new drydock for repairs. Her father happened to be responsible for stores on the base, making it easy for the two to meet. They married in England just three years later.
Clip: Victoria Daily Times (1922)
The Vice-Admiral and his wife lived for a time in Vancouver but preferred to be closer to their family on Vancouver Island. With the help of distant relatives, they rented a home in Metchosin with an option to purchase. For almost a year, the couple enjoyed their life in Metchosin and enjoyed their friendly neighbours just the same. They were settling in. But after turning in one dark October night, the couple woke up to a strong smell of smoke. On going downstairs to investigate, they found flames had escaped the fireplace and were spreading quickly around the room. The brave Vice Admiral had only enough time to grab a small bundle of clothing and a handful of his wife's jewels before leaving the house in the cold of night. They took refuge at their neighbour's home while their house burned to the ground. In the morning, the Vice-Admiral saw that all of the trophies and medals he ever achieved over his long and distinguished naval career were gone forever. Smouldering before them was the charred remains of their seaside house called Craiglands.
"Hunter & Sara"
Photo: Dual Passport (1921)
In 1926, the Millers of New York City arrived in Victoria, BC for some vacation time. It had been a long war for the couple, given that Hunter Miller's job as attorney and advisor to American President Woodrow Wilson had continued for years after peace was declared. In fact, his job as Washington DC advisor was still ongoing. With a fellow advisor, David Hunter Miller had written the final draft of the League of Nations (as presented and signed) at the post-war Paris Peace Conference in Versailles. Now he was tasked with writing volumes of memoirs to record the events for future generations. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role as the leading architect of the League of Nations.
"The Writer's Sanctuary"
Clip: Victoria Daily Times (1926)
Taking it upon herself to create a writing sanctuary for her husband, Sarah Miller purchased almost 30 acres of property in Metchosin and had local architect K.B. Spurgin build them a home worth escaping to. For nine months a year, the Millers disappeared from New York City (and the worries of Washington DC) to live a life in their Metchosin home by the sea they called Craiglands.
"New Book and New Neighbours"
Clip: Daily Colonist (1928)
Settling into the couple's new home meant getting to know the neighbours. And though their neighbours were discreet, they ached to learn more about Miller's first-hand experience in Versailles. The locals managed to draw Miller out to talk shop, and he gladly gave them an insider's view of the events that took place during one of the most historical events in history.
"The Miller Ranch of Rocky Point"
Clip: The Province (1941)
The Millers settled in well in Metchosin and two years later, purchased additional property at Rocky Point just miles away from Craiglands. They hired a man named James Edwards to entirely run the show at their ranch, and the Millers visited Edwards, his family and their farm as often as they could. For the next twenty-five years, the Miller Ranch was known as one of the best producers of livestock and grains in the province of British Columbia.
Clip: The Province (1941)
In 1941, Edwards woke up to the sound of National Defence vehicles running through the Miller Ranch property, startling the sheep and cattle. World War 2 necessitated federal land expropriation at Rocky Point, and Miller, concerned for his livestock and the ranch's future, took matters to the Exchequer. His lawyer explained to the court that although the Millers had lost at least $17,000 on their now depreciated property, he would accept a mere sum of $6,000 for damages. In the end, the crown gave Miller $1,666.10 for his worries. It was the beginning of the end of the glory days of the Miller Ranch.
In 1951, the federal government further expropriated all of the land at Rocky Point in one fell swoop, forcing all residents to sell out. The remaining land owners sold off everything they had. The Millers left the sale of their ranch, their prize animals and the ranch contents in the hands of local auctioneers. The auctioneers were also left to sell the Miller's barely used *1942 'Century' Buick Limousine and their beloved Craiglands property. After 25 years of building a prize-winning ranch and writing books in Metchosin, the Millers returned to Washington DC to live out the remainder of their days. The Department of National Defence still owns the property at Rocky Point today.
*photo is not Miller's 1942 Century Buick.
"Possible location of Craiglands"
UPDATE: as of June 28, 2022 at 11:39am
Although the exact location of Craiglands is unknown, it was likely where the award-winning Swanwick Ranch is today. In 1941, a newspaper published the top photo as the Miller Ranch of Rocky Point. This might be incorrect. Instead, it might actually be a photograph of the farm at Craiglands, which was initially (perhaps also incorrectly) called the Parry Bay Sheep Farm.