SOOKE HISTORY: Mystery poles on Wharf Road

This photo has us stumped – perhaps someone can help?

It came from Florence Muir Acreman, daughter of John Stephen Muir, granddaughter of Robert Muir and great-granddaughter of John Muir Sr. and his wife Ann Miller Muir who brought their family from Ayrshire, Scotland to the new world in 1849.

Florence Acreman had penciled on the photo, “corner Wharf Road and Sooke Road, c1940.” It’s easy to understand that her reference to Wharf Road means Maple Avenue, but it’s not so easy to figure out what the poles are doing there.

My first query: Were the poles destined to be fishtraps pilings? But if so, why would they be dumped at that spot instead of into the water. Doug MacFarlane pointed out that the poles are not sniped, but would have been sniped if they were to be driven into the ocean floor by the fish traps pile driver.

We conferred with Florence Acreman’s son Robert and her daughter Diane Alexander of Sidney. Then we went to our historical consultants, Pat Forrest and Darryl Sheilds, besides Doug. Both Pat Forrest and Darryl Sheilds grew up one block east of this intersection, on Sooke Road, which in earlier days was called Muir Way.

These three men have theorized that the poles may have been dumped there for use as utility poles, to be installed along the highway. Because the photo is labelled c1940, which meant we were about a year into the Second World War, and defense systems were beginning to be installed on the west coast at that time, it is possible the earlier power and telephone poles were renewed.

My personal speculation is that the truck was driven by Bert Acreman, Florence’s brother-in-law, and that he would be the man perched atop the poles in the photo. The building in the background is labelled J. S. Muir barn; it would have fronted onto Sooke Road (now West Coast Road) in this photo.

The red-roofed log house on West Coast Road, home of Muir great-grandson Robert Acreman nowadays would be seen, alongside a current church structure, behind the truck loaded with poles, and across from his grandfather’s barn.

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Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.