Community

Gold and land development in Sooke

Bordered between Solent Street and “School site” on the left and Drennan Street on the right side of the attached map, the subdivision put in place by the Charters family after the 1864 gold rush remains today. Though it was of brief duration, the rush of miners to the confluence of the Sooke and Leech Rivers had a major impact on south Vancouver Island at the time.

Sailing ships and steamers brought gold seekers to Sooke Harbour, where they continued to the goldfields by the Leech trail from today’s Murray Road, or via the oxen trail from Ash’s Landing within the Sooke Basin. While an instant community sprang up at the site of the claims at the Leech, the Sooke and the Wolf, it was on the shores of Sooke Harbour that the most enduring land development occurred.

While the “tent lots” 30 ft by 100 ft, shown here in the Charters plan, formed the nucleus of the new development, the land boom expected at that time did not materialize, and it wasn’t until after World War II that extensive settlement of this subdivision began in earnest.

Walking from Saseenos or Milne’s Landing to Sooke Superior School during the 1930s and early 1940s, our route followed Sooke Road as shown on this map. Beyond the swamp west of Phillips Road and up the hill, one passed through the apple orchard of the Charters farm. On our right stood the stately two-storey Charters home, with horse-chestnut trees bordering the roadside along the way.

At the next corner, Charters Street is clearly marked on this map. In my childhood, the old Charters Hall still stood at this site, the pioneer center of social activities since 1890. The walls and rafters of that unpainted building had resounded with the rush of many feet as young Sooke men threw for the baskets suspended at each end. It was first at this hall and later at the newly built Sooke Community Hall that our local fellows established their reputation as basketball champions.

While Golledge Avenue was only a line on the map then, it took its name from the first Gold Commissioner during the Leech Gold rush. At the lower edge of the map, the lots along Water Street are clearly marked. Today, after one and one half centuries of erosion, half of these frontage lots are under water.

2014 is fast approaching, with plans afoot to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the discovery of gold by Peter Leech, and the day his expedition was led to the site by Louis Lazzar of the T’Sou-ke Tribe.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum

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