Pete Poirier with a tame bear in the early 1900s.

Pete Poirier’s tame bear

Elida Peers writes about the history of the Sooke area

Our early settlers were adventurous people, perhaps none more so than the Poirier family. Here we have Pete Poirier with a young black bear. Pete was one of the 14 children born to Joseph Poirier Sr, (the man for whom Ecole Poirier was named) and his wife Ellen.

The family had caught the cub in the Otter Point woods; perhaps the mother had been shot.  In any event, the young Poirier men were enjoying raising the bear cub, trying to teach him tricks, and roughhousing with him.

Joseph Poirier Sr. had arrived at Sooke along with other emigres originally from Quebec and the fur trade, coming up north to Canada by wagon train from the Columbia River area after the signing of the Oregon Treaty in 1846.

Many French Canadian/mixed culture families initially settled near the Sooke River to be close to some of their connections at the T’Sou-ke nation. So it was that Joseph Poirier and his young wife settled at the river flats just north of the Sooke River bridge, in the area we know as Milne’s Landing.  It was here that Edward Milne Sr. arrived in the 1880s and purchased the property from the Poiriers.

Though Mr. Poirier Sr. moved his large family to property bordering n/w on Grant Road, when his four sons reached manhood, they each settled themselves further to the west. This photo was taken somewhere around 1911 to 1914 and the scene was on the west side of Muir Creek.

It was taken alongside an outbuilding in the yard of the Hugh Campbells, a pioneer family from Scotland who pre-empted in Shirley district in 1890. We’re assuming that Pete Poirier and his wife Kit were at the Campbell home visiting. The Campbells as well have had an extensive history in the area, as their daughter Christine married Edwin Clark, and they raised seven sons and a daughter. One of their grand-daughters is Dianna Seaton, a trustee on the board of School District #62.

We know that this photo was not taken before 1911, as we can see hydro wires, and 1911 was the year that hydro-electric power was first carried from the plant at Jordan River to light up Victoria.

Otter Point’s Velma Jessiman remembers her mother speaking about the bear cub tamed by her great-uncle, but does not recall hearing what happened to it.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum