He was a popular fellow, Billy Burnett, driving the stage between East Sooke, Metchosin and Victoria. Billy was the eldest son of a true pioneer lady – his mother in earlier days had run the first hotel in Sooke, at the foot of Murray Road, built in 1864 because of the Leech River gold rush.
Sheila Anderson, eldest daughter of Alexander Gillespie of Glenairley (and mother of former federal Liberal Cabinet Minister David Anderson) recalled, years ago, “from 1910 to 1929 when I was there … in those days we had Billy Burnett who had a stage coach – he’d take his team and wagon, he and Tom Parker did the shopping for you – they went around to the shops – they bought the things, and the bill was sent later – so you see in some ways, it was easier then.”
After the gold rush days had settled down, Mrs. Burnett left her hotel, hastily built on pilings on the waterfront of Sooke Harbour. Occupants who move into the new co-op housing enterprise currently being built near Horne and Murray Roads will find themselves on a historic location, so near where the gold seekers disembarked and headed up the trail to the gravel flats where the Leech and Sooke Rivers met.
Mrs. Burnett, who had three sons – Billy, George and Dave, married a Mr. Keil who owned the land immediately west of Woodward Point on the East Sooke shore. This became the home base for the stage run to Victoria. At that time, there was no crossing from East Sooke to Sooke except by water, as Gillespie Road and the connecting bridge had not yet been constructed.
The arrival of the stage, which brought mail, freight and the news, was a valued hallmark of those times, and stage drivers are fondly remembered for their important place in history.
Sooke Region Museum