SOOKE HISTORY: An icicle display along the Sooke River

By Elida Peers | Contributed

The wood stave pipe carrying water across the Sooke River in the mid-1920s must have had leaks in the joins, as the icicles formed by the drip make a pretty impressive sight here.

This photo was given to us by a beloved matriarch in the T’Sou-ke Nation, Agnes George, who lived to her 102nd year in 1979, and whose box camera recorded many images over her lifetime.

In 1913, a group of forward-thinking Sooke residents headed by John Murray, decided to bring piped water into Sooke, so that homeowners needn’t be dependent on wells.

They contracted with a Vancouver firm, the Canadian Pipe Company, to bring water from the Charters River (at that time known as East Branch), down Sooke River Road, cross alongside the bridge, up the hill to the four-storey Sooke Harbour/Belvedere Hotel and into the village.

The ditch for the pipe was dug manually and more than 27,000 feet of wood stave pipe was laid, with the labour crew camping by the roadside at night. A-frames were constructed at either side of the river next to the bridge, to suspend the cable which supported the pipe. This photo was taken from the west side, and looks toward the Milne property.

While water is flowing in the foreground, the eastern portion of the river is covered with ice, and one can see pilings and boomsticks installed to prevent logging debris from striking the bridge structure, like the bridge abutment which can be barely seen at right. We all know that winters were much colder a century ago.

Though the water system was primitive in contrast to our infrastructure today, it demonstrates the ingenuity of a pioneering community, and one can imagine what a boon it must have been to householders. Its life was brief, however, as by the mid-1920s the organization was in financial difficulties and its assets were taken over by the City of Victoria Waterworks Branch.

A section of that leaky wood stave pipe of long ago rests in the collection of the Sooke Region Museum today. It may be of interest to readers that Harvey George, the skilled carver who has given his intricate fishboat models to the museum and to the Charters River Salmon Interpretive Centre, is a grandson of matriarch Agnes George.

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Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.

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