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Sooke History: Local vessel helped Sooke expand fish trap industry

The Hopkins, 61’6” in length and 17’ 6” in breadth, was built in 1909 at Howe Sound for the Hopkins brothers.
The Hopkins tug. She was built in 1909 at Howe Sound specially for the Hopkins brothers.

When you head down Murray Road today, reach the boardwalk and saunter along the waterfront westward, you wouldn’t know the scene shown here took place around 1910-12, when that part of the waterfront was a hive of industrial activity.

This smart looking steam-powered tugboat, the Hopkins, 61’6” in length and 17’ 6” in breadth, was built in 1909 at Howe Sound for the Hopkins brothers and captained by Gordon Hopkins.

While its port of registry was Vancouver, the vessel was in Sooke towing for J.H. Todd & Sons, which was headquartered west of Murray Road.

J.H. Todd was the first fish trap operation along this coast. In this photo, you see Todd’s cookhouse and bunkhouse on pilings, and then the webshed immediately next to the Hopkins. You can see the slipway where they pulled up the barges on the left at the water’s edge. Up the hill beyond, at the tree line, you can just pick out one of the Muir houses that stood there at the time.

Along that waterfront site, which would be approximately at the little valley indentation at the west end of Horne Road, is where our researchers believe the Muir vessels had been built, back in the 1860s when the John and Ann Muir family were the central hub of life in the immigrant community then forming around Sooke Harbour.

For half a century various fishtrap entrepreneurs were engaged in harvesting salmon as they came down the Strait of Juan de Fuca heading towards their home rivers to spawn.  Todd’s, the major operator, moved its headquarters to the foot of Maple Avenue in 1912.  When the operation amalgamated with a group of fishtraps people from Port Townsend, Wash., the firm that resulted in 1922, Sooke Harbour Fishing and Packing Company, dominated the fishtraps industry until its closing in 1958.

Continuing with steam power, the Hopkins worked along the B.C. Coast under a number of different ownerships. The B.C. Registry of Steam Vessels shows that in 1936 it was converted to diesel power by Island Tug and Barge, who renamed the vessel Island Rover.

We’re grateful to Lorne Christensen for the photo and to Doug MacFarlane for history assistance.


Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.