BC Black History Awareness Society (BCBHAS)

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots” - Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr.

banner for learning center3

Fielding Spotts

Fielding SpottsApplicants for British Citizenship in an 1858-1859 report in the Victoria Gazette listed Fielding Spotts as a cooper. He probably arrived in 1858 and worked at this trade in Victoria until about 1864. Eighteen fifty-nine was a busy year for Fielding: he purchased a house lot on Pioneer Street (Now North Park Street) and he with several other blacks pre-empted land on the northern part of Salt Spring Island near St. Mary Lake. However, there is no indication that Fielding ever resided on Salt Spring Island, since by May 1860 Henry W. Johnston had occupied Fielding’s plot. 

In 1860 Fielding was joined by his wife Julia, their 2-year-old son, Fielding William, and seemingly their oldest child, Charles, all of whom came from California. The family moved to Saanich on 98 acres of land some time before 1865, and three of his children were registered in school there. In 1883 he pre-empted 50 acres immediately west of his main holding. Fielding spent over four decades working as a farmer until his death in 1902. He obtained cordwood from tree-clearing and produced farm animals such as cattle and chickens, orchard crops, and field crops most likely including oats, wheat, barley and peas. Such produce would have been important for the early development of Victoria and the Saanich peninsula. 

John H. Fitch, a recent owner of that property and publisher of a booklet on Fielding, identified the current location of the farm as in “Section 18 of Range IVE” just inside the northern border of the District of Saanich. It lies at the highest point now crossed by the Patricia Bay Highway, a little south of Tanner Road. On the east, it is bounded by the Old East Road and on the West by Central Saanich Road. The family cabin, which was standing until the 1930s, was situated on what is now 6030 Patricia Bay Highway. 

Fielding’s other contributions to his community centered on churches and schooling. 

Fielding Spotts was a religious man and perhaps the first recognized Baptist to arrive in Western Canada. He was a charter member of five churches. The first of these, “First Colored Baptist Church” (1852) was established in San Francisco, USA. In Canada, he was instrumental in the formation of the Shady Creek Church in Saanich, a community church of Methodists and Baptists (1863); First Baptist on Pandora Street, where he was a Trustee and Deacon (1876), and its successor Calvary Baptist on Herald Street (1883), and lastly Saanich Baptist (1898). When First Baptist of Victoria was reorganized in 1883, its members included as part of their covenant: “No distinction shall ever be made in respect of race, colour, or class.” Fielding Spotts died on 23 March 1902, age 74, and was buried at the Shady Creek Cemetery. The Annual Convention of Baptist Churches of B.C. published an obituary, describing him as “a simple trusting consistent child of god, respected by all who knew him.” 

fielding SpottsFielding Spotts’ children attended school at the Lake District School and then at the South Saanich School. Fielding was a trustee at both schools: in the former certainly in 1870 and in the latter from 1879 to at least 1884. His interest in the South Saanich School continued and attended Prize Day until 1890. 

Fielding and Julia had eight children: Charles ?1854-1893; Fielding William 1857-1937; James 1859-?1890, Albert 1861-1924, Theodore 1863-1927, Wendell 1867-1937+, Julia Ann ?1869-1952, Frederick 1873-1953. The Spotts’ children were apparently well liked, and were renowned athletes, several winning prizes in local events. Fielding William Spotts moved to Vancouver in 1902 and died there in 1937 at the age of 79, perhaps the last of the original pioneers. There seems to be no descendants of Fielding and Julia Spotts living today.