Woodcutting was a difficult task in the 1920s.

Rainbow Valley woodcutting in 1920s style

Historian Elida Peers paints a picture in words of the history of the Sooke region

Communes that sprang up throughout North America in the years after World War II were hardly a new phenomenon.  In our own little corner of the woods we had a group in the 1920s that encompassed about 400 souls. They first set up a substantial camp town that was spread throughout the Whiffin Spit, Nordin Road and Wright Road area. While many lived in tents, they also built a two-storey tabernacle, or meeting house.

Much has been written about the Standfast Bible Student colony, or Star Construction Company. They were part of an international movement of scattered groups of individuals who came together to give up their worldly possessions and share communal living while awaiting “the Second Coming.”

The Standfast group arrived in Sooke in 1922/23 and developed a series of communal enterprises.  Dissatisfaction spread through the colony within two or three years, with groups of families moving off in different directions.

What is not so well known is that some of the colony decided to try again in Port Renfrew, and took passage on the Princess Maquinna. This smaller band of families settled in what they called Rainbow Valley, a site they chose as particularly fertile for growing produce in the sun and rain-streaked valley near the San Juan River.

From the mid to late 1920s this fellowship of families cleared the land and harvested bounty from the earth, before disbanding once again.  The youngsters did not attend public school but were taught in their own classes.  Descendants of these families, who have shared their history with us, are to be found in Sooke, Port Alberni, Seattle and Victoria.

In the photo, Charlie Tannock is wielding a double-bitted axe as his fellow brethren, Elmer Nichols, John Wainscot and Sverre Bolstad stand by to help with the firewood.  They are loading wood blocks on to the deck of a “Model T” converted into a truck, and seem to have dragged a chain-wrapped Douglas-fir log from the beach.

While folk connected to the Whiffin Spit and Rainbow Valley colonies continue to make contact with the museum, it is unlikely there is anyone living today who themselves grew up in these communes.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Oak Bay pandemic project gets 300 submissions

Gage Gallery exhibit shows how people cope during crisis

Peninsula food bank receives $1,000 donation from local retailer

House of Lily Koi raised the money through the annual food bank fundraiser

Garden-sharing map connects Victoria landowners and gardeners

U-Map created by Young Agrarians after COVID-19 created uptick in garden matching requests

Saanich wins award for climate plan cut from 2020 budget

‘It’s truly an exceptional plan,’ says councillor disappointed with lack of funding

QUIZ: A celebration of dogs

These are the dog days of summer. How much do you know about dogs?

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Annual music event in Comox Valley celebrates online instead

Vancouver Island MusicFest holds virtual celebration set for July 10

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Stop enforcing sex work laws during COVID-19, advocates say

There are provisions in Canada’s prostitution laws that make workers immune from prosecution, but not from arrest

Most Read