65 Oswego Street (ex-124, then 127 Oswego St)
For: John Barber
Appearing from the front to be a simple square structure, this single-storey, hip-roofed vernacular bungalow actually has a hipped wing on its left back corner and a gabled wing with eave returns to the rear. A roof-ridge that slopes from front to rear presents the impression that the house was built in stages. The symmetrical front façade has a small flat-topped hip-roofed entry porch with square supports and pilasters between two two-over-two sash windows; other windows in the rear are similar. There is a low corbelled brick chimney in a roof valley to the rear. Narrow closed eaves project above a fascia board, and a watertable divides the shingle siding. A sliding glass door at the rear is a later addition.
This was the second or third house built on this lot at Oswego and Niagara. The lot was owned from 1891-1916 by John Barber, who likely built a small cabin at that time: the 1892 assessment shows an improvement worth $250, and when sewer was put in in 1905, there was still a small, narrow house in the middle between what is now 303 Niagara and 65 Oswego. 303 Niagara was likely built by 1896, and 65 Oswego, likely by 1897.
John Barber, a Scottish fisherman, arrived in 1890 with his widowed mother Lilias, brother Robert and sister Euphemia. Lilias is listed in the 1891 census as a boarding housekeeper, her family living with her, including Robert’s wife Hannah Sinclair from their hometown of Cockenzie, Scotland, whom he married in Victoria in 1890. In 1894 Robert was drowned when a scow pulled by the steamer Florence was dragged across the boat as he and John were fishing on the Skeena River. Robert’s body was never recovered. John Barber died a bachelor in 1942 at 73.
Daughter Euphemia, who was a servant in 1891, married seaman John Grundison from Cockenzie in 1892, and they likely lived in this house by 1898. Grundison died at 32 in 1901, leaving Euphemia with a five-year-old son. She remarried in 1902 to plumber Andrew Milligan from Fifeshire, Scotland. He came to Canada about 1891 and later prospected at Atlin during the Klondike gold rush.
From c.1913 Andrew worked for the BC Department of Public Works, and in 1922 bought their first motor car. He took his mother-in-law Lilias for a drive with her friends, including Mrs. Stout of 351 Simcoe St, James Bay. Travelling west on Simcoe at Menzies, they were struck by the Fernwood-Beacon Hill streetcar and thrown from the automobile. Lilias, 86, died at 65 Oswego several hours later. The Milligans still lived here when Andrew died in 1936 at 66. He was a member of IOOF and the Wanderers’ football team. Euphemia sold the house by the mid-1940s, and died in Victoria in 1959 at 89.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION & IMAGES:
• James Bay History
• James Bay Heritage Register
• This Old House, Victoria's Heritage Neighbourhoods,
Volume Two: James Bay