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Leechtown celebrated with new monument

Unveiling the memorial plaque - Britt Santowski
Unveiling the memorial plaque
— image credit: Britt Santowski

The Honourable Judith Guichon Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia graced Sooke with her presence on the morning of July 19 to commemorate the 150th year of the founding of Leechtown with the unveiling of a new monument at the Kampoor Regional Park Reserve (formerly a part of Leechtown).

The Vancouver Island Placer Miners Association (VIPMA) committed to construct a new monument for Leechtown, about 3.5 years ago, as the old one exists on private land, is dilapidated and is not available to the general public. In partnership with CRD Parks, CRD Water Shed, VIPMA started the process of re-connecting with potential stake holders to resurrect a new monument. Representing VIPMA were Bruce Chaytor as chair, Bart van Den Berk, co-chair and Donna Chaytor, coordinator of the event.

In attendance were Wendal Milne, the mayor of Sooke, Chief Gordon Planes, of the T’Sou-ke Nation, Elder Shirley Alphonse, and a long list of representatives from various historical associations.

On Saturday, the years of planning came to pass. After several brief presentations, a new commemorative monument was unveiled by Her Honour Judith Guichon and VIPMA chair Bruce Chaytor.

The Honourable Judith Guichon addressed the crowd with a lovely poem by Robert Service, and shared memories  her time in the Yukon and her connection to gold.

Bart van den Berk author of the recently released The History of Leechtown Part 1, had his daughter Laura present a copy of his book to Her Honour. The book is based on the authentic journals and letters of the Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition on the discovery of gold.

On hand was Fred Zarelli, the eldest person with knowledge of the Leechtown area. Also in attendance was special guest, Beverly Smith who was born in Leechtown in the early 1940’s.

Leechtown has a long history which was started with the announcement of payable gold, and was followed by many diverse people and ways of life in the past 150 years.  Leechtown and the area has always had a way to stay in the hearts of people as a special place, and as such deserves the recognition of a bit of special attention for her 150th Commemoration.

Celebrations continued into the afternoon at the Sooke Regional Museum, which included outdoor events, music, food, and some very fine beverages. Her Honour Judith Guichon toured the Sooke Region Museum for about 30 minutes with the museum’s executive director Lee Boyko and president of the Sooke Historical Society Ray Vowles.

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