SOOKE HISTORY: Crossing the Sooke River

Several bridges have been used to help residents get over the river

Half a century ago the bridge that we use to cross the Sooke River was installed with great ceremony. A bronze plaque is inscribed “B. C. Department of Highways, 1967,” and lists Hon. P.A. Gaglardi and other dignitaries.

This bridge, of course, has had several predecessors.

In 1872 Michael Muir was awarded the contract to build the first bridge crossing, his $1,600 bid accepted.

We don’t have an image of Muir’s bridge, but we do know that before 1872, crossings were undertaken by canoes, rafts, rowboats and sails. Chief Kwaq a Yuk (Chief Cap’n Jack) of the T’Sou-kes was often called upon to ferry people across.

A bridge photo dated 1900 given to the museum by the J.H. Todd family is clearly not the original Muir bridge built for $1,600, so we can call that one bridge No. 2.

An account written by Marguerite West years ago describes a flood in 1896 which wreaked havoc and tragedy in the river; perhaps the Michael Muir bridge lasted until that time. Perhaps this was the same flood that caused the William Phillips family to move their house from the river’s edge to higher ground.

We know that in 1921 another new timber bridge was constructed, from two accounts: Kathleen Wright (think Wright Road) had started a Girl Guide company in Sooke that year, and had invited the Girl Guide commissioner in Victoria to perform the inauguration ceremony.

When the commissioner arrived, the bridge was out, and Guide captain Wright had to ask the T’Sou-kes to ferry her across the river by canoe.

The other story relating to the new bridge in 1921 came from Victoria Donaldson Clay, (think Donaldson Island/Secretary Island) who met a fellow working on the bridge construction, William Clay, and before long became his bride. So the 1921 bridge would be No. 3.

Public Works records show that $31,320.79 was expended here.

Doug MacFarlane tells us that in the mid-1930s, another enormous flood brought several buildings down the river, which hit the bridge pilings on their tumultuous journey to the sea.

It is believed that repairs kept the bridge functional.

Walking across the bridge every day on our way to Sooke Superior School, the youngsters from Saseenos and Milne’s Landing, like myself, knew the bridge well during the war years, and some of us were on hand to watch when that bridge was dynamited by the province in 1946, after bridge No. 4 had been built to take its place.

Museum staff have been told that Jim Ward, who ran the Sooke River Hotel at the time, was nearly struck by a bolt that flew through his window from the explosion.

So the 1946 bridge lasted until 1967, when the steel bridge we drive across nowadays was structured in place, making bridge No. 5 (we think).

Bridge speculation now exists, of course: will there be a second crossing? Will there be another lane? What will the years ahead bring?

Whatever is ahead, probably nothing could beat the drama of the year 1990, when another mighty flood hit the river in a rush.

George Pedneault was one of those most dramatically affected. His herd of Hereford cattle was pastured at Meota and at the Helme place, way up the Sooke River.

The rushing torrents brought seven of the animals downstream, where one cow was found at the MacFarlane place, one on the museum lawn, one stranded on a sandbar in the swirling water at the river mouth, and George finally located several on the East Sooke shoreline.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.

 

Just Posted

Whisky society commits to charity donation in wake of whisky raids

Refund of Victoria Whiskey Festival tickets won’t impact charity beneficiaries

Victoria housing provider launches crisis prevention program to combat homelessness

Pacifica Housing aims to address challenges before tenants risk evictions

Victoria wins crucial WHL contest over Giants in Langley

Royals take over second in B.C. Division ahead of Vancouver

Cordova Bay group against plaza redevelopment

Cordova Bay shopping centre has three, four-storey buildings

Man hospitalized after early morning Sooke Road crash

Police say injuries are non life-threatening

WATCH: Giant waves smash Ucluelet’s Amphitrite Point

Folks made their way to Ucluelet’s Amphitrite Point Lighthouse on Thursday, Jan.… Continue reading

WHL winning streak ends at four in Kelowna for Victoria

Royals lose 8-4 as Rockets explode offensively

Wind warning back in effect around Vancouver Island

80 km/h winds expected Saturday, Jan. 20, on east coast of Island, 100 km/h on west coast

VIDEO: Thousands join women’s march events across B.C.

Today marks one year since the first Women’s March on Washington

UPDATE: BC Transit’s handyDart service strike delayed

LRB application by contractor means new strike notice must be issued by union

Two Canadians, two Americans abducted in Nigeria are freed

Kidnapping for ransom is common in Nigeria, especially on the Kaduna to Abuja highway

Are you ready for some wrestling? WWE’s ‘Raw’ marks 25 years

WWE flagship show is set to mark its 25th anniversary on Monday

B.C. woman who forged husband’s will gets house arrest

Princeton Judge says Odelle Simmons did not benefit from her crime

Women’s movement has come a long way since march on Washington: Activists

Vancouver one of several cities hosting event on anniversary of historic Women’s March on Washington

Most Read