The Girl Guides and their Guide leaders who were at a special ceremony at Camp Jubilee at Kirby Creek last weekend would have been fascinated had they been able to view the scene shown in this 1915 photo, taking place right where they were standing.
The photo shows the old Kirby farm, settled by “Ma” and “Pa” Kirby early in the century, a place where they raised their three sons, Harry, Ralph and Austin. Each of the Kirby sons was mechanically gifted, and Ralph Kirby became especially well-known in Sooke as in the 1920s to 1940s he operated a shingle mill close to Sooke River Road, and that location now bears the name Kirby Road.
We don’t know which of the Kirby sons was directing the horse in the photo, but the scene illustrates a very early method of land clearing with a horse and primitive apparatus providing the power. The object here was to pull a stump. The horse is harnessed to a timber to operate a windlass; by the horse walking in circles, continually winding a cable around the anchored central stump and post, the stump being pulled from the earth (not shown in photo) was drawn forward as required by the woodsman. The Kirby homestead and barn may be glimpsed beyond the horse.
Though the Kirbys cleared their land for farming, their location was in a lush rain forest, and the trees have grown back beautifully. At the Girl Guide ceremony, a full century after this scene, we observed that the camping area was ringed by giant Douglas-fir and Western Red Cedar and feathery Hemlock.
Deciduous specimens: maple, alder, chokecherry and willow, contributed their share to the green river valley as well, and when interspersed with sword fern, wild rose and columbine, the historic scene was a veritable garden.
Camp Jubilee at Kirby Creek was acquired by the South Vancouver Island Girl Guide organization in 1960, and we can only be thankful that they had the forethought to set aside this wonderland.
The hundreds of girls who happily nibbled at their campfire-decorated cupcakes at the weekend event organized by South Vancouver Island Commissioners Gillian Hurwood, Wendy Halpen and Adrienne Blandford, would surely agree.
Elida Peers is a historian at the Sooke Region Museum