Ellen was a daughter of Samuel Tufts, a United Empire Loyalist whose forebears came over from England to America on the Mayflower. Chased out of Massachusetts at the time of the Revolution, the Tufts family settled in Halifax, N.S., in 1776, at a spot still known as Tufts Cove. Adventurous Ellen decided to move to the other side of Canada, and, in 1862, set sail from Halifax for Boston, then south around Cape Horn, up to San Francisco and on to Esquimalt. As petite, fine featured Mary Ellen Tufts stepped off the gangplank onto the strange land of British Columbia at Esquimalt Harbour, her appearance concealed her strong pioneering spirit and intestinal fortitude which she would need as Matron on the isolated Race Rocks where she raised nine children.
Ellen’s days at the lighthouse on the barren rock must certainly have been a challenge for the young mother as her only neighbours were the barking sea lions and noisy seagulls. According to letters in the Victoria Archives, she depended mainly on rain for fresh water supply and any supplement had to be delivered along with fresh meat and provisions on the boat, Sir James Douglas. Letters from the lighthouse state that the meat and provisions were sometimes inedible on arrival. A letter of May 10, 1870 from Thomas states that he and his wife and family had not been off the rocks to enable them to purchase clothes and necessities for the family of eleven for two years and nine months.
Source: FootPrints Pioneer Families of the Metchosin District, Marion I. Helgesen editor