SOOKE HISTORY: Knox church had beginnings in 1898

SOOKE HISTORY: Knox church had beginnings in 1898

One of the dramatic changes to Sooke’s landscape is happening now at Church Road and Wadams Way.

The structure rising beyond the Knox Presbyterian Church will consist of much-needed affordable housing. It’s nice to see the existing church will remain in place.

This photo taken in 1954 by Milt Gibson shows carpenter Alan Smith working on the vestry. This second church, like the original in 1898, was built largely by volunteer labour and contributions, but an overseer was needed, and well-known carpenter Smith filled the role.

The church shown here under construction in 1954 replaced the 1898 church. That original building was moved to Throup Road, close to the approach to Journey Middle School, where, considerably altered now, it serves as Mount Shepherd Lodge’s Masonic Hall.

The first Knox Church building seemed a miracle to the handful of settlers that made up the congregation in 1898. When the idea came up, the expression was heard: “A church for Sooke; it will be many a day before you can raise money enough for the purpose.”

The land, “for church and graveyard,” was given by John Murray, and the organizing group that moved the development forward included George Throup and Edward Milne.

Margaret (King) Jensen, brought up by the Murrays, told of the early church services: “They had both morning and evening services. Everyone took their coal oil lanterns with them and when it began to get dark, each one put their lantern on the book board and lit it. Mrs. Murray was morning organist and in the evening Miss Catherine Stewart was organist.

“Each family seemed to have a special seat; the back seat on each side was occupied by the Phillips family and the Milne family respectively. The Stewarts and Sandersons and Wilsons all kept to the same seats. Mr. Edward Milne took the collection and came creaking up the aisle in his Sunday boots. Collection was taken in a velvet bag on the end of a broom handle as people were afraid someone would see what their donation was …”

The current Knox church, when it was completed in 1954 as shown, became the scene of a great many marriages of young Sooke couples, and continues to play a role in the community, including funerals that also draw people together in fellowship. No doubt many are pleased to see it will remain standing.

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Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.