History of Island Arabians Farm

Much of the information of this page is based on a BC Province Newspaper article, from Aug 1957 and a Boulevard Magazine article on the renovation >read full article


Island Arabians Farm has a long history of breeding great animals – right back to the pioneer days when it was prize Jersey cows and later, hackney horses. These feats, that foreshadowed what the farm is today, were all accomplished by successive generations of the Moses family who owned the farm for 120 years.

The Moses Farm

Fighting, singing Welchman Dan Moses came to Vancouver Island in the early 1860s by way of New York, the California gold fields, the Oregon trail and the Cariboo gold fields. Dan came back from the Cariboo gold fields with enough money to start the Pioneer Hotel in Victoria and started to amass a lot of other real estate as well. He married Mary Barton a governess who came out on a bride ship - but she paid her own way! They met at a dancing school.

Purchased by Daniel Moses in 1865 for a dollar an acre, the original 500 acre parcel of land that was to become the Moses farm spread across the northwest peninsula near Deep Cove. The tip of land called Moses Point commemorates this early North Saanich homesteader.

Why Dan bought the farm nobody could imagine since he was a city man, dressed in a top hat and carrying a gold-headed cane. He lived in luxury at the Pioneer hotel. Maybe he figured it was a good investment...how good even he couldn’t forsee! It was Mary who managed the farm, grew hops for the ale her husband sold and made the place successful. He didn’t even come out to the farm too often since it was 22 miles away - a whole day's journey with horse and buggy. But he trained a little spaniel to carry messages to his wife. The dog made it in much less time and returned with the answers tied to her collar. Dan’s only son and child Christopher married a pretty half native girl Emily Elizabeth Munch of Fort Langley .

Young Christopher had had a tiff with his dad Dan and rushed off to go commercial salmon fishing on the Fraser. He saw pretty Emily Elizabeth as he was shingling the roof of his fishing shack and took the shingle nails from his mouth to toss them down at her and attract her attention. Seven years later they were married. By that time Chris and his father had made up their quarrel and in 1904 Dan Moses handed him over the farm for the sum of $500 and "natural affection". In 1910 Dan died. Christopher forsook hops for hackney horses and high steppers. The buffets and sideboards at the farm were crowded with the silver cups won by horses sired by his studs. Shades of things to come perhaps?

Chris and Emily had three children, Dan (who became Inspector Daniel Moses of the RCMP in Ottawa), Irene Maud and Grace Evelyn. Grace Evelyn has several claims to fame. Grace Evelyn had for years one of the finest herds of Jersey cows in western Canada and a lap full of ribbons to prove it. It took her years to bring that herd to perfection; years to select and breed. And all the time she was teaching school and handling a milk route with as many as 150 customers. Now Ruth, a retired school teacher, and her husband Don, a mind-spinningly busy corporate executive are breeding and raising their own prize herd.

The Renovation

Over the years the family reduced its land holdings and rebuilt the farmhouse several times. The house Don and Ruth James eventually bought was the fifth to be built on the homestead. The other four burned down - for once flames started on a pioneer home little could be done to stop them. You can see the hearthstones of one of the earlier homes not far from the present one. When the farm changed hands in 1989 it comprised 40 acres, a 78 year old house and an old red barn.

Don and Ruth laugh when they recall their decision to buy the property. They were really looking for a five-acre hobby farm but Don fell in love with the property and Ruth fell in love with the old house. The next 10 years saw the farm transformed. They wanted to keep the character of the existing house but also needed to build the infrastructure for breeding Arabian horses. To tackle such an immense project the construction took place in stages. First came a guest house, then the horse barn, caretaker's building and garage. Just fencing the entire property took a couple of winters.

Renovating and expanding the main house took two years. (read the article – with pictures – in Boulevard Magazine about the renovation) It was estimated that more than 70 people worked on the house from carpenters and floor layers to stone masons and stained-glass experts

Work began on the 7000 square foot home in 1998. The existing house had been expanded in 1911 to include a dining room, a living room and two bedrooms. In order to excavate a full basement, the 1911 addition was moved and then carefully returned to the same location. The older portion of the house was torn down making space for new construction. All the renovations strived to maintain the integrity and feel of the old home. Heritage gardens with old fashioned favorites such as roses and lilacs surround the home. Today its acres of rolling grassy land on Saanich peninsula - Saanich, a Native word meaning plenty – are still producing prize animals and, thanks to a loving restoration, looking better than ever.

Daniel Moses would be proud.

"This house has spirits. We want them to be happy." Ruth James


If you're interested in any of the horses on this site, we'd love to hear from you!







The old home and Emily Moses

Emily in front of her rose arbors

Grace with her prize Jersey cows

Old barn - now gone

The farmhouse the way Don and Ruth first saw it