Sir James Douglas aboard HMS Rocket.

Sir James Douglas aboard ship

Elida Peers writes about the history of the Sooke region.

James Douglas is a name recognized by everyone interested in British Columbia’s history. Coming north from the Columbia River area in 1842, scouting for a new location for a fur trading fort, Douglas took note of Sooke Harbour, and observed: “a spacious inlet … where shipping may lie at all seasons of the year in perfect safety …” Because of the company’s need for extensive farmland, though, he determined “… the character of the country is totally unfit for our purpose, the shores being high, steep and rocky, and everywhere covered with woods.”

The new fort, of course, was established at Camosack in 1843, becoming Fort Victoria where Douglas ruled as Chief Factor for the Hudson’s Bay Company. In 1851 he also became the Governor of the new Colony of Vancouver Island.

James Douglas and his wife Amelia raised a large family in Victoria, establishing a home in James Bay.  Among the daughters in the Douglas family was Cecilia, the eldest, who married the colony’s physician, Dr. J. S. Helmcken.

In time, one of Dr.  Helmcken’s and Cecilia’s children, their son James, was sent to Scotland to be educated, where he too, became a physician. It was the second Dr. Helmcken, (a grandson of Sir James Douglas) who became friendly with the Ted and Kitty Gordon family of Gordon’s Beach and frequently journeyed to Otter Point to visit them.

After Douglas’ term as Governor, he was knighted by Queen Victoria. In this photo, believed taken in the 1870s, Douglas is shown in retirement aboard HMS Rocket on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Standing out in his bowler hat in the centre, Douglas is posed with the ship’s officers. HMS Rocket was a gun vessel launched in 1868, built by London Engineering Company, was 155 feet in length and sailed on this coast for two decades.

Not long after, the oldtime statesman passed away quietly at his James Bay home. At noon on August 6th, 1877, HMS Rocket arrived in Victoria Harbour, where the sailors disembarked and joined the local militia to become the marching military honour guard to escort Sir James from his home to the service at the Reformed Episcopal Church. This church still stands, at the corner of Blanshard and Humboldt Streets.

After interment at Ross Bay Cemetery, the bells of the churches all tolled and the guns of HMS Rocket fired a final salute.

Elida Peers

Historian

Sooke Region Museum

Just Posted

Langford woman charged after allegedly racking up $10,000 in loans using stolen identity

A 32-year-old Langford woman faces theft, fraud, and impersonation charges

Head of Vancouver Island Regional Library system calls Sidney’s claims ‘problematic’

Rosemary Bonanno says the Library Act gives Sidney an ‘exit strategy’

Advanced polls see 29 per cent increase in voter turn out from 2015

Some 4.7 million people took part, says Elections Canada

Saanich man charged in cross-border drug smuggling operation pleads guilty

William Milton Barnes was charged following a six-month joint investigation

Cruise ships leading culprits in rising greenhouse gas emissions at Ogden Point: report

The GVHA released its Emissions Inventory Report just days after City asks for restrictions

ELECTION 2019: Climate strikes push environment to top of mind for federal leaders

Black Press Media presents a three-part series on three big election issues

UBC issues statement after instructor tells students to vote for Liberal Party

University says partisan messaging was not intentional

Fatal overdoses down by 33% in B.C., but carfentanil deaths continue to spike

Carfentanil, an illicit drug more powerful than fentanyl, causing more deaths than ever

Cowichan Valley brothers win big in lottery for second time

Playing same numbers net big wins over a three year period

B.C. woman finds mysterious coin among Grandma’s collection

Grandmother died when she was very young and her past is not well known to her mother

Report of gunshots leads to discovery of deceased male in Campbell River

Police conduct investigation in the south end of Campbell River

Pot use admission at U.S. border snagging Canadian boomers, says lawyer

A waiver to enter the U.S. can cost $2,000 and isn’t a guarantee

Health concerns over vaping cast haze over Canadian cannabis market expansion

More than 1,000 people in the United States, and a handful in Canada, have developed a lung ailment

Most Read