When you drive up Church Road and witness the very substantial and impressive housing complex on the corner with Wadams Way, you’d be surprised to see the area’s appearance when this photo was taken in 1953.
The group of Sunday school students and their teachers pictured was taken at the last service at this pioneer church, the first in Sooke.
This photo shows the first Knox Presbyterian Church, built in 1898, a miracle for such a small community. It served the congregation until 1954 when a new Presbyterian Church replaced it.
Three teachers standing in the entryway are Dorothy Kendrew, Doreen Richardson, and Mrs. Lyttle, wife of Rev. Lyttle. The two teachers standing at the far right are Helen Yost and Hazel Shepherd.
Though services had been conducted within the small community by visiting ministers, the idea of erecting a church structure in the 1890s seemed daunting to most.
When Rev. Lyman Thompson called a public meeting in the summer of 1898, only two men showed up, George Throup and Edward Milne. Margaret Jensen, who had been raised by the Murray family, recalled hearing about the almost-universal sentiment: “A church for Sooke; it will be many a day before you can raise money enough for the purpose.”
That changed, however. John Murray joined the group, donating a small piece of his land, and the band of four moved forward with a will that brooked no delays.
In October 1898 they had a ceremony to open the church, though they did have a debt outstanding to their contractor of $250. By the next year, Donald Fraser had spearheaded a drive for an organ, and this was installed with much celebration, and by 1902, the congregation had cleared the debt.
The building shown here did not go to waste; it was purchased by the Masonic Lodge and moved to Throup Road, where today it continues to be rented out to local organizations.
While we know that the Sunday School teachers pictured are no longer with us, we expect that many of the youngsters may be around, and we’d love to hear from them.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email email@example.com.
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