Driving from Sooke northeast across Sooke River Bridge today, the foliage obscures one’s view of the historic Milne home high on the riverbank at one’s left.
This 1898 photo shows the Milne family on the front porch, which faced the bridge. The senior Milnes, Edward and Susannah, had arrived in Sooke in 1884 from Scotland, with their grown children, Edward and Hugh and three daughters. Within the next few years the senior Milnes had passed away and it was Edward Jr and his wife Janet Kerr who established the pioneer frame home in the photo.
Shown are Edward Milne Jr. (for whom Edward Milne School was named) standing alongside his wife Janet, who is holding their toddler Nan. In front of them is their youngest son Fred. Their daughters Janet and Isabella are next, with their elder sons Edward and William.
The enterprising Edward Milne Jr. established a large farm, became a shopkeeper and postmaster, and even ran a horse stage. The area got the name Milne’s Landing because he built a wharf to offload supplies brought in from Victoria by water.
When the Bamfield-Victoria tree-to-tree telegraph line was established in 1889 this house served as a telegraph station. By 1913 telephone service had been established, with the first switchboard set up in the Milne home. Isabella, or Bella as she was known, was the first telephone operator. In time, youngest daughter Agnes, known as Nan, succeeded her to the duty and became chief operator when a separate building was constructed next to the roadway.
A feature of the Milne home that I remember fondly was the flock of colourful peacocks and peahens that paraded proudly on the well-kept lawns. In those quiet days, their raucous calls could be heard for miles.
While Moss Cottage (1870) is Sooke’s oldest standing building, followed by Woodside and Burnside (1884), the Milne home is next in line. Though the frame house is empty now and sagging on its foundations, it is a reminder of more than a century of proud Milne family history.
Historian, Sooke Region Museum