The Kirby homestead

Kirby Creek has a historical past on Sooke River Road

Sooke historian Elida Peers writes about the history of the Sooke area

“Ma” and “Pa” Kirby and their three sons, Harry, Ralph and Austin, made their home in this trim cottage after their first cabin burnt down in 1915.  At that time, the creek was called Coal Creek because of coal deposits found upstream. While the dad’s name was Henry John, the homey pioneering couple were always called Ma and Pa.  According to accounts by Jean Robinson, the glossy Eatons catalogue, received in the mail twice annually, connecting them to the outside world, was in Ma’s view, a gift from Mr. Eaton.

It seems that the Kirby sons were mechanically inclined and the challenges of their remote location no doubt led to improvisation and innovation.  Harry, the eldest, found work on Michigan Pacific’s logging railway which used Climax locomotives at Jordan River between 1907 and 1917. Though suffering the loss of an arm on the job, he later drove a taxi in Victoria, and also owned a towboat.

Austin Kirby got a job with Sun Lock Mines in Jordan River in 1918, driving truck. He married Kathleen Gordon, daughter of Ted and Kitty Gordon of the historic Gordon’s Beach farm. After the mining period, he became a boom-man for Canadian Puget Sound Lumber & Timber Company.

By the 1920s Austin Kirby had branched out into operating his own bus service between the booming town of Jordan River and the city of Victoria. One report says that on Friday nights his bus would be loaded with loggers coming in to Sooke to celebrate.

Ralph Kirby was the only one of the brothers whom I had occasion to meet, which was when I was a little kid skating on the shallow pond that then existed by Sooke River Road and Kirby Road.  Ralph Kirby had become a steam engineer and found work both at Jordan River and at the Sooke fishtraps operations. He was also employed as a locomotive engineer on the flowline project that saw 27 miles of narrow gauge railway laid from Sooke Lake to Goldstream to carry the thousands of pipe sections into place.

Ralph was probably best known for running the Kirby Shingle Mill in the 1920s to 40s, and giving his name to the road which runs opposite to today’s industrial park on Sooke River Road.  The home that Ralph and Katy Kirby shared became, much later the home of Sooke’s first Mayor, Ed Macgregor and his wife Linda.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum