School trustee John Murray with teacher Margaret Jennings at Springside school in 1872. Two years later

SOOKE HISTORY: Sooke’s first public school opened in 1872

B.C.’s public school system began in 1872. While Metchosin’s school opened first, Springside at Sooke was opened that year as well.

B.C.’s public school system began in 1872. While Metchosin’s school opened first, Springside at Sooke was opened that year as well.

If you are driving out West Coast Road, between Gatewood and Caldwell, that is where the school stood, for its first two decades.  Later, a new structure was built on the current Sooke elementary school site.

Given us by his Muir/Throup great-great-niece Diane Alexander, pioneer Michael Muir’s diaries show us a bit of Sooke in that year. A diary entry for May 28, 1872, reads:

“Mr. Jessup, superintendent of education, came down at 9 p.m. with the notices to put up about Sooke District having been made a school district and called a meeting to elect three trustees on the 12th of June.”

The entry for May 29 reports: “Mr. Robertson our MPP and Mr. Walkem came down and we had a long talk … Mr R. explained the school bill … had a long talk about the road and the bridge.” On June 12, the entry reads: “At 12 o’clock sharp the meeting for the election of trustees for school board was called to order with Mr. Meeson in the chair and F. Turner secretary …. F. Turner, J. Welsh and M. Muir was elected to be trustees …”

Entries for December 1872 give us more details:  ”Paid for school clock – $10” … “Paid Mrs. Miles for school books had by the children $5.05” … “All the folks went to the school examinations … examined by Mrs. Miles, assisted by Mr. Meeson … the children acquitted themselves very creditably.  Had a fine tea after the examination and Mrs. Miles gave some of the children book prizes.”

By the time this photo was taken c1888, there were already changes … J. Welsh was no longer living in Sooke after suffering the loss of his wife Mary Ellen, and Michael Muir himself, the family’s entrepreneur, had passed away the past January.  John Murray (think Murray Road) is the trustee posed here with teacher Margaret Jennings.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.