SOOKE HISTORY: Dora Jane French an early pioneer

French Beach Provincial Park connected to family

Dora Jane French in 1910. (Sooke Region Museum photo)

Goudie is a name strongly associated with our early West Coast history.

Dora Jane Goudie’s grandfather James was a Hudson’s Bay Company fur trader, born in the Hebrides in 1809, who, like many Scots, came out to the new world to embark on an adventurous life.

He married Catherine, a Nez Perce, in the territory that later became Washington State.

Many folk in the Sooke that I grew up with were connected to the Goudies, whose menfolk mostly carried on the family traditions of work in the woods, where their exploits became well known.

Dora Jane’s father was John Goudie, second of the seven children of James and Catherine.

John married Mary Ann Vautrin, and made his family’s first home out in the Muir Creek area where he worked as a woodsman, pre-empting Section 23.

It was John and Mary Ann Goudie’s large family that probably became best known of the Goudies in our region.

Dora Jane, born in 1884, married James George French and lived out her life in Otter Point and Shirley.

Her younger brother James (Jimmie) Goudie married Lily Michelsen and the couple raised their family in Sooke. Another brother George married Lizzy Poirier and raised his family in Otter Point. One of Dora Jane’s sisters, Pearl, married American Herbert Stephens and spent much of her life in the western U.S.

When she married at 15 to James George French, Dora Jane was introduced to a menagerie, as Mr. French was a naturalist, pre-empting Section 79 (Renfrew District) in Shirley. He established a menagerie of animals at a property he held in Saanich, but also kept animals at his Shirley home, and his time alternated between locations.

This photo shows Dora Jane French in 1910, and while she looks formally dressed here, much of her life was spent raising five children in a pioneer cabin.

Her first son Ivan married Maureen Evans, her daughter Hazel married Robert Marwick and then Joseph Tahouney; next son Oscar married Lillian Mary Sullivan; son Wilfred married Dora Came, and the youngest, Danny, married Lucy Carrie.

When she died in 1933, little could this pioneer lady have imagined that, a lifetime later, many thousands of visitors would look forward to visiting her old home site on the waterfront at Shirley – it was her descendants who provided the land that would bring enjoyment and holidays to so many, as French Beach Provincial Park.

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Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.

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