Moss Cottage on the Sooke Region Museum’s grounds and right: a view of the parlour inside Moss Cottage showing the writing desk

Moss Cottage on the Sooke Region Museum’s grounds and right: a view of the parlour inside Moss Cottage showing the writing desk

Curator’s Corner: A little history of Moss Cottage

Moss Cottage was one of the first homes of Sooke pioneers

Moss Cottage is the oldest standing pioneer home west of Victoria and was built in 1869/70 by James Welsh (relative to the Muirs).  Today the cottage is situated on the museum grounds, but it was originally constructed near Woodside Farm where the Sooke Baptist Church is today.

James built the cottage for his wife Mary Ellen (nee Flynn) and they lived there for 10 years before she died in childbirth in 1880. Mary Ellen had named her home “Moss Cottage” in memory of her mother’s family name back in England. The cottage was built using lumber from the Muir Mill, which was B.C.’s first successful steam-powered sawmill. After Mary Ellen’s death, the cottage was occupied by Matilda Gordon (Aunt Tilly) and her two children Alice and Harry. Matilda was James and Mary Ellen’s niece and the granddaughter of the original pioneering Muirs.

 

Throughout the 1900s the cottage was passed down through James’ kin and was given to the Sooke Region Museum in 1977 by Ernie Welsh (grandson of James). Since its reconstruction on the museum grounds, the cottage has been restored and maintained by the Sooke Region Historical Society. The most recent repair to the cottage is a new roof in 2012. Today the inside of the cottage takes you back to the turn of the century in 1902. In this year, Matilda has lost her husband Jack Gordon to consumption and she is raising her two children on her own.

Inside the cottage you will find four distinct rooms: The kitchen, parlour, children’s bedroom and Matilda’s bedroom. Each room is completely furnished using a variety of donations and artifacts to bring this early 1900s era to life. The Moss Cottage kitchen is a very special place for visitors as the various artifacts, meat and herb props, furniture, and familiar smells really evoke memories.  The kitchen is filled with vintage supplies such as butter paddles, cake tins, washboards, spice tins, numerous pots and enamel dishes, an egg beater, a metal cream skimmer and furniture. Also in the kitchen are utensils from Sooke’s Belvedere hotel (burned down in 1934). One of the most stand-out artifacts in the kitchen is the 1896 Albion wood and coal range stove (1975.001.001a-q). The iron stove, donated by Joe Vowles, consists of numerous parts including a main stove, warming oven, thermometer and detachable cooling rack. Visitors will also notice a beautiful large wooden cabinet that houses many of the kitchen display’s spices and food tins, utensils, dishes and jars (1980.003.001a-f). The wooden cabinet, donated by Mrs. Kay Maughan, has a hutch that attaches to a buffet with multiple drawers. The hutch has two shelving compartments lined with metal and doors fitted with glass windows.

The parlour is the equivalent of today’s family room. It has a fireplace, book shelf piano, spinning wheel, writing desk and chaise lounge. Other artifacts in the parlour include a gramophone, phonograph, writing box, prints and velvet framed photographs, autoharp and a kerosene lamp. One of the most historically valuable artifacts in the parlour is the piano (2014.FIC.359). The piano belonged to the Welsh family and was donated to the museum by Helen (Welsh) Yost. Visitors often ask about the portrait hanging over the fire place. This is a portrait of Queen Victoria and there is a black scarf draped over it because the household is mourning her death (1901). The portrait was donated by Brock Robertson in 1978. Also in the parlour is a tea cloth made by Kitty Gordon (of Gordon’s Beach), who was Matilda’s sister-in-law. A black embroidered coat hangs on the desk chair to show that Matilda is also mourning her husband Jack. For school tours and events in December, a Christmas tree is set up in the parlour and Moss Cottage is decorated for the holiday season.

Both bedrooms in Moss Cottage represent how Matilda and her children were living and what their décor and personal taste may have been. The children’s bedroom has blue and cream striped and floral wallpaper, two beds with patchwork bedding, a dollhouse, books, toys, and candles for light. Laid out on one of the children’s beds is a book belonging to Alice titled Mother’s Stories (1991.021.001). Inside it says, “Douglas R.N. Muir a birthday gift from Mr. Mitchell, Victoria 1888” and “Alice Mary Gordon a Christmas gift from Douglas Muir December 25, 1903.” Also in the children’s bedroom is a hot water bottle (or “pig”) that would have been placed under the blankets at the end of the bed for warmth.

 

In Matilda’s bedroom is pink floral wallpaper, a large wooden bed, dresser, sewing table with projects and a washing station.  There are clothing items laid out on the bed, shoes lined up on the floor and vanity items on the dresser. Also in the bedroom are fishing rods hanging on the wall, a kerosene lamp and a jewelry box.  During tours, a tour guide will point out the cotton mattress as it is stuffed with horse hair (1984.048.001). There is a large tear in the mattress that allows visitors to see the horse hair inside.

There is Muir, Welsh and Moss Cottage history throughout the museum. In the pioneer and first settlers’ display are two silver cups that belonged to Harry and Alice. Harry’s cup has a very ornate handle and “HLG” engraved in the middle of it. Alice’s cup has floral designs and the handle has a small cat figure on the top and a bird on the bottom. Both cups are very small, ideal for children’s hands. Character tours of Moss Cottage are available throughout the summer and cost $3 per adult and $1.50 per child.  On Sunday June 28, at the museum’s annual Open House, tours of Moss Cottage are free of charge.

Brianna

Shambrook
Collections and Exhibits Manager

Sooke Region Museum

Just Posted

Al Kohut, owner of the new photographers GALLERY, checks out Looking Back by David Bradt. The photo printed on canvas is among 50 images featured in the Birds on the Wild Side exhibition showing until July 3. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Photo gallery in Sidney plucks out top bird photos

Birds on the Wild Side show running at the new photographers GALLERY until July 3

A bathtub kitchen garden is part of the lineup for this year’s Teeny Tiny Garden Tour to benefit Victoria Hospice. (Screenshot/Teeny Tiny Garden Tour)
Virtual garden tour for Victoria Hospice features trio of back yards

Online tour is free; calendar purchase and donation options raise money for the cause

The Town of Sidney supports efforts to rename Reay Creek to KELSET, its traditional SENCOTEN name. (Black Press Media file photo)
Town of Sidney signs off on Reay Creek name change to KELSET

Name change does not affect surrounding parkland, but public supports doing so

The Pool at the Esquimalt Rec Centre. (Courtesy of theTownship of Esquimalt/ Facebook)
Esquimalt Rec Centre restarting everyone welcome swim times later this month

The 90-minute sessions will be on select evenings and weekends

Steve Mann and Tim Hackett consider Marigold Lands their finest development. (Rendering courtesy Marigold Lands)
Marigold residences grow more townhouses and condos in Central Saanich

50 condos, 14 townhouses up next for project adjacent to Pat Bay Highway

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read