Farmer, cooper, husband, father, church leader, school trustee ...
Applicants for British Citizenship in an 1858-1859 report in the Victoria Gazette listed Fielding Spotts as a cooper. It is believed he arrived late in 1858/early 1859 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 Black pioneers 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.
In 1860 Fielding was joined by his wife Julia, their oldest child Charles and 2-year-old Fielding William. The family moved to Saanich on 98 acres of land sometime 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 raised farm animals such as cattle and chickens, orchard crops, and field crops most likely including oats, wheat, barley, and peas.
John H. Fitch, a later owner of that property and publisher of an article 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 is 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 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. They 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.
The family also took part in community events. For example on July 3, 1885 a Colonist article about the Farmers' Basket Picnic lists Wendell Spotts placing 1st in standing high jump, standing long jump and the 75 yard foot race; and placing 2nd in the running high jump and running long jump competitions. Little is known about the Spotts children other than Fielding William who moved to Vancouver in 1902, lived and owned a business in Hogan's Alley. He died there in 1937 at the age of 79.
Fielding Spotts Jr. is featured in this Canada Post Black History Month commemorative stamp issued on January 30, 2014. “Remembering Vancouver's Hogan's Alley”. Pictured with Fielding is Nora Hendrix, the grandmother of famed musician Jimi Hendrix and a respected and important member of Vancouver's Black community.
Fielding Spotts Image F-00651, Courtesy of Royal BC Museum and Archives
Shady Creek Church, BC Black History Awareness Society Collection
John Fitch, Professor Emeritus, University of Victoria "British Columbia History", Vol 38 No.2