Loaded flat decks are seen on the railway siding near the Kapoor sawmill in the Sooke Hills on their way to market in 1930. (Sooke Region Museum photo)

SOOKE HISTORY: Kapoor family leaves logging legacy

Elida Peers | Contributed

In the uplands above Sooke, stretching back towards the Cowichan Valley, if you’re hiking or cycling on the Galloping Goose, you may notice a plaque affixed to a rock as you approach the plains before the Leech River. This plaque commemorates the Kapoor family, who established a sawmilling enterprise in the 1920s, a few miles beyond Leechtown.

Kapoor Singh and his partner Mayo Singh were both from India, and through a great deal of hard work and bold initiative, established sawmills and other forestry enterprises which offered employment to many immigrants of diverse ethnic backgrounds.

A village of family homes and crew bunkhouses was established closer to Duncan; the village was once called Mayo, and later was named Paldi after an ancestral home in India.


Before his arrival here, Kapoor Singh was well-travelled and progressive.

When Kapoor Singh married and raised two daughters in the logging community, where they attended the small elementary school, he made sure they were raised with his philosophy, to share the wealth he made from the forests, and contribute to the world around him.

Brought up to value his beliefs, his daughters Jagdis and Sarjit worked hard in school, attended university, and both became medical doctors.

The two women and their husbands shared their lives between British Columbia and India.

Mindful of the humanitarian values of their father, they established a small village hospital in Punjab and spent part of each year serving there.

When Sooke celebrated BC 150 with a historical pageant in 2008, the sisters, by then very senior in years and based in Vancouver, donated funds to assist our efforts.

Land arrangements took place between the sisters and Capital Regional District Water; the nine-kilometre tunnel that now carries water from Sooke Lake to the disinfection facility at Japan Gulch to serve Victoria is named the Kapoor Tunnel.

I am reminded of the story told by my father, Michael Wickheim, who in 1932 took his seven-year-old son Maywell with him on an extensive hiking and exploring expedition in the Sooke Hills.

With packs on their backs, they approached the sawmill and assorted structures in the wilderness. They never forgot the kindness of Kapoor Singh, as when he sighted them he insisted they come into the cookhouse and enjoy a hot meal with the crew.

Another point of interest about the logging community of Paldi is that Rajindi Mayo, the eldest son of Mayo Singh, was the man who kindly contributed the boiler for our Phillips Brothers steam donkey, which we restored laboriously at the Sooke Region Museum around 1980.


Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.


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