Oak Bay archives volunteer Alan McKinlay holds a shovel believed to have been used in the Tod House garden. He’s asking for anyone who knows more about the artifact to come forward.

Digging into shovel’s history

Tod House, at 2564 Heron St., was built in 1850 and is the oldest continually occupied house in western Canada.

Sometimes a spade isn’t just a spade.

Just ask the volunteers with the Oak Bay archives who were given one such mysterious artifact that could have belonged to one of Victoria’s first settlers, John Tod.

Alan McKinlay was volunteering at the archives earlier this month when he received a call from a staffer at Oak Bay United Church. The church had received a donation of a small, wood-handled shovel marked with a tag reading: “from Tod House garden.”

Tod House, at 2564 Heron St., was built in 1850 and is the oldest continually occupied house in western Canada.

A church volunteer called McKinlay prior to placing the item for sale in its thrift shop. Apparently, the former owner of the garden tool of yore purchased it from a garage sale and knew no other background information on its story.

“I went along and had a look at it and that’s right, it is a shovel,” McKinlay said with a laugh. “It is a spade.”

McKinlay and the team at the archives are hopeful someone is able to illuminate the item’s past.

Until then, it is destined to sit among a handful of artifacts that have accumulated within the archives: bottles from the Hudson’s Drug Store that date back to 1912, every dog tag ever issued by the district and a variety of Second World War artifacts.

The history buffs at the archives have long talked about opening a museum for their expanding collection, McKinlay said, even if they’re not entirely sure of the history themselves.

“Looking at the age, I think it’s probably legit,” he said of the spade. “If anybody has anymore information we would be absolutely delighted to hear the story.”

The Oak Bay archives can be contacted at 250-598-3290 or obarchives@oakbay.ca.