SOOKE HISTORY: Lillian Davies and a pioneer school Christmas

Lillian Davies with her children at the pioneer woman’s 90th birthday celebration at Sooke Community Hall in 1990. (Sooke Region Museum)

Elida Peers | Contributed

Posed with their mother, Lillian Davies, her sons, Howard and Henry, daughter Doreen and youngest son Gerry were helping her celebrate her 90th birthday at the Sooke Community Hall in 1990.

Born in an Otter Point log cabin on a snowy day in March 1900, Lillian knew what real pioneer life was about.

Born to Bessey, wife of Henry Clark, a Brit who had pre-empted 80 acres in Otter Point in 1893, Lillian grew up without the amenities that most children have today, but her stalwart origins meant that she demonstrated kindness and dignity all her life.

After Henry had put up a cabin, he sent back to England for his wife and first youngster Lena, so Lillian had an older sister, and her birth was followed by brother Reginald, who grew up to become a teamster.

As her dad, Henry Clark drove a four-horse stage between Victoria and Otter Point, Lillian grew up helping with farm chores.

At eight, it was her job to milk the cow before setting off 2.5 miles to school.

In 1919 she married George Davies, grandson of the first lightkeeper at Race Rocks. The young couple made their home in Otter Point, where George worked as a rigger for Milligan Logging and for Harry Vogel. Along with raising five children, Lillian also worked with her husband in the field, and they bought their own 30-acre farm.

Widowed in 1952, she made her home in downtown Sooke.

While alone, her life was so full with visiting children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, all gathering to see grandma and hear her pioneer stories, she had lots of company.

Most of her family lived nearby.

Daughter Doreen married Herb Piggott; Henry married Willie, Howard married Terry, Gerry married Roberta; George Jr., married to Bertha, died before this 1990 photo was taken.

Before she passed on at 94, pioneer Lillian Davies described Christmas season.

“In November the school teacher began to plan for the annual Christmas Tree Social … a list of names of the pupils was obtained from the teacher.”

Kay Shambrook and I were made responsible for collecting the money to purchase the gifts, which would be presented by Santa at the social.

Kay and I walked many miles to each farm as I recall.

The classroom was gaily decorated with a very large Christmas tree.

It was beautifully decorated with shiny glass ornaments and at the tip of each branch was clipped a tin holder that held the candles.

As precarious as it sounds, we never once lost the schoolhouse to fire.

Great excitement prevailed, the children arrived with their parents and the concert program got underway.

At the completion there was a dead silence that prevailed as every ear listened for the magic sounds of sleigh bells.

Soon Santa was warmly welcomed by all.

The gift giving was followed by the next best event, the delicious goodies prepared by the ladies.

Thhe remainder of the evening was spent with games and dancing, in which young and old participated.”

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

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