Two bridges at Sooke River back in 1921

Two Sooke River bridges

Elida Peers writes about the history of the Sooke region.

We hear a bit of talk about bridges crossing the Sooke River, (and do we need a new one?) but this is one of the few photographs that shows two bridges at one time. It was taken from the east bank of the Sooke River, on the Milne property, camera facing towards the Belvedere hill. in 1921.

In the photo’s left foreground at the river’s edge you can see remnants of one of the earlier Milne’s Landing wharves for offloading goods.  Up the hill on the other side, through the trees, you can see the four-storey Sooke Harbour Hotel, which was managed at that time by author-historian Major George Nicholson.  (He’s the one who would never let me tape him when I asked about rum running and bootlegged caches.)  In 1927 the hotel changed hands and was operated by Raoul and Andre Robillard who renamed it the Belvedere.

The person holding the camera was Victoria Donaldson Clay.  Growing up at the far end of East Sooke Road on the Donaldson Farm (now called Spirit Bear Ranch) Victoria had an astute mind and memory and gave us much assistance with early community history.  She met and married William Clay when he was employed on the construction of the new bridge over the river that year.  Victoria and William Clay made their home at Shawnigan Lake. One of the Clay sons, Eric, left instructions in his will for the creating of a monument to his grandfather Alexander Donaldson, placed at the west end of East Sooke Road.

Victoria told us that the earlier bridge, the one you see on the right, had its underpinnings damaged by logging operations when wayward log booms had gone astray.  The new bridge under construction is shown at the left (or downstream) and looks to me like it did when I and dozens of other youngsters walked from Saseenos and Milne’s Landing to Sooke Superior School every day.

This bridge remained in place until 1946 when dynamite charges removed it after another new one had been put in place.  The current steel bridge has served since 1967, carrying the traffic of a population which has increased more than three times over since it first began to bear its weight.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum