Three young children play on the beach at Jordan River in 1919. The Vancouver Island Power project dammed the river to create a hydroelectric power system that would provide electricity to light up the city of Victoria. Contriibuted - mSooke Region Museum)

Three young children play on the beach at Jordan River in 1919. The Vancouver Island Power project dammed the river to create a hydroelectric power system that would provide electricity to light up the city of Victoria. Contriibuted - mSooke Region Museum)

SOOKE HISTORY: Jordan River powerhouse and the Rumsby family connection

Frank Rumsby worked many years at the Vancouver Island Power project

Elida Peers | Contributed

Today’s photo, taken in 1919, shows two bathing beauties, seven-year-old Helen and five-year-old Ethel, who was born at Jordan River in 1914, whom we’ve discovered are Rumsby family relatives, with information shared by Ethel’s son, Ken Sudhues.

When Ken got in touch with the Sooke Region Museum, we found he had never seen the original old powerhouse at Jordan River that employed his family so long ago. So off we went, Beverley Myers, Ken and I.

We knew that Frank Rumsby worked many years at the Vancouver Island Power project, which dammed the river to create a hydroelectric power system that would provide electricity to light up the city of Victoria. (This before Frank moved into Sooke and started his own electrical business.)

Turns out that an earlier generation, international musician Albert Rumsby and his wife Kate were in Victoria by 1905 where he became bandmaster for the 5th Regiment of the Canadian Army. Albert also led the band at the newly built Empress Hotel. Albert and Kate Rumsby raised children Albert, Stella, Frank, George, Alfred and Horace.

Frank’s older sister Stella Rumsby married Ernie Saunders, an electrician initially based at the primitive Goldstream powerhouse. Among their friends were engineer Duncan I. Walker and his wife, and they were excited when D.I. Walker was appointed in 1908 to head the massive construction project set to harness the Jordan River.

Jordan River could only be reached by boat unless one had the leg muscles to hike. The outpost was founded by an American logging company and a power project soon attracted workers, eventually growing to 1,000 men, mostly single, but some with families.

In 1911, with the powerhouse operational, both Ernie Saunders and brother-in-law Frank Rumsby were employed.

By 1912, a gravel road connected Jordan River and Sooke. The two little girls sunning themselves in our photo, are the daughters of Stella and Ernie. These little girls did not grow up here, as their dad’s work took them elsewhere, but they savoured the family photos of an earlier day. Ken Sudhues, Ethel’s son, holds the collection.

The term electrician had become almost a local synonym for Rumsby, as Frank’s two sons, Larry and Bill, became electricians, as did Larry’s eldest son Steve.

As we hiked through the overgrown terrain at the old hydro site, 50 years past its prime, and Rumsby descendant Ken got to witness the dilapidated old structure, a forlorn remnant of history, I wonder what he thought!

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