Vancouver Island Masonic History Project

As part of our Vancouver Island Masonic History Project, with its sections on Vancouver Island Cemeteries – Masonic Interments and Deceased Brethren, here is a page on David Russell Ker (1862-1923), a leading figure in Victoria’s business history and a member of Victoria-Columbia Lodge, No.1, who is buried in Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria, B.C.

David Russell Ker (1862-1923) was a member of Victoria-Columbia Lodge, No.1 in Victoria, B.C.
David Russell Ker (1862-1923) was a member of Victoria-Columbia Lodge, No.1 in Victoria, B.C.

David Russell Ker was a partner in the Brackman-Ker Milling Company.  Two of the company’s business buildings are still standing in downtown Victoria: one at 1407 Government Street, built in 1889, and another at 1414-1420 Broad Street, built in 1907. The company also had a large operation at the Outer Wharf, now called Ogden Point.

1407 and 1411 Government Street, Victoria, B.C. 1407 Government Street was built in 1889 by the Brackman-Ker Milling Company, which was owned by David Russell Ker, a member of Victoria-Columbia Lodge No. 1
1407 and 1411 Government Street, Victoria, B.C. 1407 Government Street was built in 1889 by the Brackman-Ker Milling Company, which was owned by David Russell Ker, a member of Victoria-Columbia Lodge No. 1
1420 Broad Street, built in 1907 by architect Francis Rattenbury for the Brackman-Ker Milling Company, owned by david Russell Ker, a member of Victoria-Columbia Lodge No. 1
1420 Broad Street, built in 1907 by architect Francis Rattenbury for the Brackman-Ker Milling Company, owned by David Russell Ker, a member of Victoria-Columbia Lodge No. 1

He grew up in what is now the neighbourhood around Gorge Road and Tillicum Road in Saanich, B.C. He attended Craigflower School, which is still standing on Admirals Road near Gorge Road West and has been placed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places. Several streets in this area are named for members of the Ker family, including Ker Street, Walter Street, Arnot Road and Davida Avenue.

Here is a brief biography of David Russell Ker taken from local newspaper reports of his death and funeral:

 

“DAVID R. KER CALLED BY DEATH

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Leading Milling Company President Passes
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Had Been Closely Identified With Many Institutions
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A wide circle of friends will sympathize with the relatives of David R. Ker, president of the Brackman-Ker Milling Company, who passed away last evening at his residence, Kershaugh, Yates Street, at the age of 60 years. [Note: Kershaugh stood at the corner of Yates Street and Fernwood Road. It has been demolished and replaced by an apartment building.]

Mr. Ker had been ill for a number of years, and the end of his life was not unexpected.

The funeral arrangements are in the hands of the B.C. Funeral Company, who announces that the cortege will leave the residence on Monday next at 1:45 for St. John’s Anglican Church, where service will be held at 2 o’clock.

The late David Russell Ker was born here on October 3, 1862, the son of Robert and Jessie Russell Ker. His father, the late Robert Ker, was Colonial Treasurer and Auditor General for a number of years before Confederation, having emigrated to British Columbia from Scotland in 1859.

The early years of Mr. Ker’s boyhood were passed on the Ker estate at the Gorge, the property now faced by the B.C. Electric Park [note: now called Kinsmen Park]. He was educated at the old Craigflower School, and later at the Collegiate School here, and determined to devote himself to a business career. He chose the occupation of a miller, and with that intention learned the business thoroughly, spending several years in establishments here and in San Francisco. In San Francisco he was associated with the Golden Age and the Caledonian Milling Companies.

His Business Career

Mr. Ker returned to Victoria in 1882, and in 1883 joined Henry Brackman in the Brackman mill at North Saanich, which had been founded by Mr. Brackman in 1878. This firm became known as Brackman & Ker, and was later incorporated as the Brackman-Ker Milling Company, Ltd. The business continued at North Saanich for several years, the office in Victoria being opened in 1886, and in 1891 the headquarters were moved here. The business now has interests in Vancouver, New Westminster, Nelson, Nanaimo, Rossland, Edmonton and Calgary. For a number of years Mr. Ker was a director of the Alberta-Pacific Grain Company, and of the Western Canadian Flour Mills Co., Ltd., as well as President of the Brackman-Ker Company, and was general manager of the last named company up to the time of his illness.

The Brackman-Ker Company is now amalgamated with the Western Canada Flour Mills Co., Ltd., of Toronto, one of the largest flour milling concerns in Canada, with flour mills at Winnipeg, Brandon, Calgary and Goderich; also oatmeal mills at Calgary, Edmonton and Brandon.

To Mr. Ker’s initiative is due the fact that Victoria has a large cereal mill at the Outer Wharf, one of the larger of the numerous enterprises in different cities of the Brackman-Ker interests.

His Public Work

Mr. Ker for a great many years took an active share in public affairs, and in 1895-97 was President of the British Columbia Board of Trade. He was also for a term President of the Victoria Agricultural Society. He was all his life closely identified with St. John’s Anglican Church, where he was christened by the late Rev. P. Jenns, and attended Sunday School in his childhood, and throughout the subsequent years of his life he was one of the leading laymen in the diocese. He was one of the moving spirits in the construction of the new church edifice [note: the present St. John the Divine Anglican Church, 1611 Quadra Street], and for several years acted as churchwarden.

His political opinions were Conservative, and he was a member of Lodge No. 1, A.F. & A.M. of B.C. Golf was his favorite recreation, and he was a member of the Victoria Golf Club, as also of the Union and Pacific Clubs.

Family Associations

His marriage to Miss Agnes Heisterman took place in 1894, and there were born two sons, Robert Henry Brackman Ker and Bernard Russell Ker, and two daughters, Laura Davida and Inez Jessie. All the family are resident in Victoria, the younger daughter now being at home on holiday from the Bishop Strachan School, Toronto. The late Mr. Ker had also three brothers, Robert James Ker, who died in 1919, and two who survive him, Walter Henry Ker of Vancouver, and Thomas Arnot Ker, at present in California.”

(Source: Victoria Daily Times, 13 July 1923, page 1)

David Russell Ker is buried in Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria, B.C.

David Russell Ker, family grave, Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria, B.C.
David Russell Ker, family grave, Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria, B.C.

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