Women of the Todd

A roadster on East Sooke Road – 1914

It was stopped on the Metchosin/East Sooke Road; no doubt the driver had gallantly gotten out to take the photo.

When Sheila Anderson, mother of former federal cabinet minister David Anderson, gave us this photo years ago, she called the vehicle an “Overlander.”

It was stopped on the Metchosin/East Sooke Road; no doubt the driver had gallantly gotten out to take the photo.

Under a magnifying glass, the licence plate shows 1914. This automobile was built by Willys-Overland, the second largest auto producer after Ford in that time period.

Note the hand crank on the engine front, and the hard tires. Driven on a bumpy dirt road, the passenger comfort level would be a far cry from today’s luxurious forms of travel, but still a big step up from horse and buggy.

In East Sooke at that time, there were two prominent families, the Gillespies of Glenairley and Grouse Nest, and Lady Emily Walker and Rev. Reginald Walker at Ragley. They would likely have been the only owners of automobiles in East Sooke in that period.

In the photo are Mrs. Jacob Hunter Todd (nee Rosanna Wigley) her sister Mary Ann Wigley, Mrs. Hebden Gillespie, (nee Mary Ann Isabella Todd), and Mrs. Charlie Todd (nee Mary Chatwin Butchart).  J.H. Todd, of course, was well-known as the man who initiated the fishtraps industry on this coast.

A week or two ago, members of the film group who are producing the story of Woodside Farm, met with two Gillespie grandchildren at Grouse Nest, a very beautiful spot at the far reach of Sooke basin. (Boundary-wise, this is now part of Sooke, but historically it was East Sooke.)

David Anderson stood on the rocky promontory and read an account written by his grandfather Alexander Gillespie, describing how in 1888, as an eight-year old, he had been taken from Grouse Nest in a rowboat down the harbour to the foot of today’s Maple Avenue, where he had watched the Muir oxen haul logs on skidroads from the uplands and dump them into the water, where they were drawn into the gigantic saws of the Muir sawmill.

We were thrilled that such a dramatic historical account was available for the movie, and it was fun to see David Anderson and his cousin Janet Broadbent, both of them grandchildren of Alexander Gillespie and Rose Ellen Todd, revisit the Gillespie’s Grouse Nest grounds of so long ago.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.