Local loggers pose for a picture at Elder Logging operations. (Sooke Region Museum photo)

SOOKE HISTORY: Elder Logging crew, 1937

Elder Logging was one of the mainstays of the local economy from the 1930s to 1950s

Way back when logging was king this shot was taken at Elder’s Camp, with many of the crew posed on the logs, one Douglas-fir and one red cedar, chained onto the deck of the Hayes logging truck.

Back in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, it was Elder Logging’s operations that formed one of the strongest components of our local economy, on a par with CPS in Jordan River.

Starting at left, the men are Reg Piercy, Don Pontious, Horace Arthurs, Les Blake, Paul Michelsen, Bill Dougan, Kenny Dods, Charlie Davidson, Max Elder, Elmer Dods and Babe Poirier. Standing on the cab we see “Grandpa” Ed Elder, the man who brought the enterprise to our town. His grandson Jack Elder is standing alongside him, and the notable thing is, he was wearing a suit, as he was the bookkeeper, not a woodsman.

When you drive out to Muir Creek today, just before the bridge you pass Anderson Road, which leads to the remains of the old Elder Camp, which in its heyday held a machine shop, cookhouse, blacksmith shop, and homes for the Elder men, Max and his wife Edna, Dal and Sylvia and Max’s son Jack Elder and wife Mona. The sawmill offered employment as well, especially in the summer when young fellows were looking for summer jobs.

Reg Piercy went on to run his own logging outfit, and then headed up-Island, where Piercy Road in Courtenay is named for his family. The Pontious family, all six brothers, were involved in logging and the fishtraps, and when you go into the hardware store today, you may meet a granddaughter, Judy Jay. Charlie Davidson was a high-rigger; the Davidsons and the Dods family have been stalwarts of Otter Point for many decades. Paul Michelsen married the teacher at Jordan River, Eleanor Hartman, and we still see their son Randy around town. Babe Poirier, who ran a yarder, has relatives around town as well, including niece Velma Jessiman.

Within the truck cab, Harry O’Neill is at the wheel. Other well-known woods crew not shown included “Big Ed” Robinson, his brother Albert, both fallers, and Andy Davidson, the man who later started the marine industry on Kaltasin Road, now known as Jenkins Marine. Mandus Michelsen, a faller, and brother Erland “Dadie”, are well-represented within our community today as well.

Horace Arthurs told this story: “When Elders changed their loading methods … production increased … pleased, Max offered ‘Any time you guys get over a hundred thousand a day, we’ll take you down to the beer parlour in Sooke’ … and he and Dal took us all down … pretty soon they had to quit doing that though, they were afraid they were getting an alcoholic crew.”

As this photo came from Horace Arthurs, it likely was taken by his wife Norma, one of the beautiful Neil girls of North Sooke. Norma, like a whole community of camp wives, made their home and raised their children in one of the cottages provided by the company for married couples. Today most of the little camp village has been taken over by underbrush and reverted to the forest.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

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