Remembering: North Saanich’s Horth family

With a rich history in North Saanich, the Horth family was well-known around town before, during and after the First World War.

Leonard ‘Loe’ Horth. Served with the 88th Battalion

The Peninsula News Review asked the community this year, for their remembrances of family members who served Canada during times of conflict. What follows are some of the stories shared by people who feel the service of their loved ones should not go unrecognized.

 

With a rich history in North Saanich, the Horth family was well-known around town before, during and after the First World War. And their legacy still lives on through Horth Hill and Wain Road, which was named when Wain’s two daughters married two of the Horth boys.

There were 10 in the Horth family: five girls and five boys. Three of those boys served in the First World War. They were Leonard (who also was called Loe), Douglas and the youngest, Henry, who went by the name Brownie.

The PNR heard from Loe’s granddaughter, Kathy Watson, who is also the great niece to Henry and Doug. Watson detailed some of thier history, along with Bernard and Louis Douglas Roberts, nephews of the three Horths.

The family members took a walk down memory lane, remembering what they knew about the Horth boys who served their time in the military.

 

Leonard ‘Loe’ Horth

Enlisted in the war in 1915, Loe served in the 88th Battalion, Victoria Fusiliers (Canadian Battalion), Canadian Expeditionary Force as a Private.

During the war, Loe trained as a vet to look after the horses. And Watson said it broke his heart when they got injured.

What many remember of Loe was his leg injury from the war.

“My grandfather was wounded during the war  and the shrapnel bothered him for the rest of his life. However, he didn’t let it stop him from becoming a champion skeet shooter, hunter and fisherman, nor did it stop him from being a successful farmer in North Saanich after WWI,” said Watson in an email to the PNR.

Growing up next to Loe in Deep Cove was his nephew Bernard Horth.

“He was a farm boy basically. Even before the war in 1913 or 14 he opened a butcher shop,” said Horth.

Bernard remembers Loe hiring help to do lots of his farming, having dealt in cattle.

“He was known as a pretty sharp dealer from people I’ve talked to,” he said.

Bernard even did some work for him as a teenager, cutting hay and firewood. But when it came to the war, all three brothers remained silent.

“People didn’t talk about it,” said Horth.

For Roberts, who knew Loe as well as any uncle, he respected him greatly.

 

Douglas Horth

Sitting in his living room, Roberts pulled out a letter written in 1916 from the matron at the St. John Ambulance Brigade Hospital, which was sent to Douglas’ mother to advise her of Douglas’ whereabouts.

“It’s amazing in the First World War … that these things were shipped all over the place. In the second world war, if you ever did that, you’d be up against the wall and they’d shoot you,” said Roberts.

The letter was about Douglas’ injury in the war, where he lost his left leg in Ypres.

But that didn’t stop him from going on to become a professional opera singer.

“He was very, very good. He was a lyric tenor and he could sing without accompaniment,” said Roberts who heard him sing, when Douglas was living with his family.

Growing up in North Saanich like the rest of the Horth’s, Douglas sang at the Institute Hall on what is now Wain Road. Bernard said it was Horth Road when he we a kid. The Hall was a community hall and school.

Douglas, whose stage name was Carl Horthy, took singing lessons in Victoria, Seattle and then New York, and made his debut in grand opera in Milan, and sang at the Salzsberg Festival.

He was also a music teacher in Victoria and Vancouver before leaving for Toronto after World War Two.

Roberts said he had an artificial limb and even has the case in his basement which Douglas carried his spare leg around in.

 

Henry ‘Brownie’ Horth

The youngest of the Horths, Henry, nicknamed ‘Brownie’ was the man everybody liked.

“Everybody liked him, everybody liked Uncle ‘Brownie’,’ they were well known in the area,” said Watson.

Brownie served with the British Naval patrol, and is said to have been in the Dardanelles.

Roberts spent a lot of time with him growing up.

“He was more like a father to me. I did a lot of things with him,” said Roberts.

In North Saanich during the war, Brownie was a contractor for a logging company on Downey Road, where the Horth home was located. It was originally on the site of Russell Nursery.

He later purchased the Deep Cove Chalet with a partner and built tennis courts and cabins.

“So during the war that was a hugely popular place …” said Bernard.

He ran it for many years and later started the Saanich Freight Service, hauling milk.

“When I was a kid, a lot of us worked for him,” said Bernard, adding that he worked for him for one season when he was about 18.

“In those days you shipped the milk in 10 gallon cans, you didn’t have tankers,” said Roberts.

Roberts even drove trucks for him in the summer when he was going to university.

Brownie also did general hauling and helped load furniture, helping out many residents.

“He was a real nice guy,” said Roberts.

Another interest of his was boating.

“He was always interested in boating and he had a nice 36 foot cruiser they built in Deep Cove and I used to cruise with them for the month of August in the summer,” said Roberts, adding it was back in the thirties when cruising was a pleasure.

Bernard said his boat that he built in company with a fellow boat builder was called the Donna Marie, named after his daughter.

Brownie, who was married to Nell Horth, lived in the Deep Cove area,

For those interested in viewing the artifacts of the Horths, Susan Myerscough of the Saanich Pioneer Society has them for people to see.