Saturna Island’s First Pioneer Home

The first European settlers on Saturna Island arrived in 1869. Mainly farming families, these settlers primarily kept sheep and orchards on sprawling acreages. The Breezy Bay farmhouse was originally built in 1892 by Gerald and Elizabeth Payne. The farm originally encompassed nine hundred acres, which was laboriously cleared using teamed oxen. The land was plowed for farming, and orchards were started. Gerald’s brother opened Saturna’s first post office and general store, while other Payne family members settled in the Saanich Peninsula and raised cattle. Yet another Payne brother, an Anglican priest, served as rector of St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Victoria.

Portraits of Gerald and Elizabeth Payne; displayed in breakfast sunroom.
Payne family gathered for photograph on Breezy Bay verandah, c. 1920s.

In the 1930s, the Payne family sold the farm and retired on the Saanich Peninsula to be nearer to their sisters. The new owners during this time raised beef and dairy cattle, sheep, chickens, pigs, and sold fresh produce and flowers.

The first school on Saturna Island opened in 1919 – you may see a plaque near the General Store marking its original location. During the 1960s, the Breezy Bay farmhouse was purchased by a co-operative group for the purpose of operating as a boarding free school. At that time there were a handful of other free schools in Canada, all trying to break tradition and explore alternative education. The free school theory was (and often still is) that children will learn more easily given freedom to learn naturally and without being saddled with the procedures and directives of traditional education.

During the 1970s, the short-lived free school ceased operation and the farmhouse was updated with more modern conveniences. It was converted into a bed and breakfast in the 1980s. Today, much of the original 1890 farmhouse remains intact, making it a favourite of history lovers. The library contains many late-1800s publications and others from the free school era. Today the farm produces culinary herbs and vegetables, alongside raising geese and beef cattle. The century-old orchard still produces apples, cherries, plums, and pears.