Pioneer daughters at Sooke School

SOOKE HISTORY: Daughters of the Pioneers

Each of these girls was a living, breathing part of that pioneer story of Sooke

By Elida Peers

These young girls represent a lot of history. Back row: Janet Milne, Edna Whittier, Isabella Milne and Adele Poirier.  Front:  Alice Gordon, Cecilia Poirier and Eliza Phillips.

They are  standing in front of the newly-built little one-room clapboard building that stood on the tent-lot properties donated by the Charters family for use as a school (the same property where Sooke Elementary School stands today).

For the 20 years previous to this photo, Sooke’s first school structure, called Springside, stood a half-mile further west on what was Muir land, near Caldwell Road.

The teacher in 1902 was a Miss Alice Boorman, and the school’s trustees were John Murray, Edward Milne and William Phillips.

Looking at the clothing, it seems that most of the girls wore pinafores, except for Isabella Milne, who stands quite primly in a skirt and blouse. It was Isabella who became Sooke’s first telephone operator, back in the days when the first switchboard was in the Milne family home.  (Note: the original Edward Milne house, built c1888, still stands on the property today, though showing signs of its lengthy life.)  Janet Milne did not survive to adulthood. Edna Whittier, the second girl in that row, was a granddaughter of Jonas and Eliza Throup.

Last in the row is Adele Poirier. We have a photo of her looking after a calf alongside the Poirier barn which stood on Grant Road. Adele married Harry O’Meara.

In front, Alice Gordon is a name familiar to anyone who has toured Moss Cottage at the museum, as little Alice grew up in the cottage. Alice’s father Jack was brother to Ted Gordon, whose name is remembered today by that long stretch of open beach in Otter Point called Gordon’s Beach.

Cecilia Poirier is in the centre, the youngest of the eight daughters of Joseph Poirier Sr. and the only one of them I actually got to meet, much later on when she was Mrs. Harry Dilley.

Cecilia’s son Claude Dilley is remembered by many Sooke fishermen today.

Last is Eliza Phillips, one of the six children of William and Janet Phillips, who raised their family on the land where the Sun River subdivision thrives today.

So when you think of Milne’s Landing, Phillips Road, Throup Road, Poirier Lake, and Gordon’s Beach, it’s kind of neat to realize that each of these little girls was a living, breathing part of that pioneer story.

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Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.