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SOOKE HISTORY: Mugford Board & Lodging House was home to many weary travellers

“Aunt Janie” Mugford offered good food and a warm welcome to travellers
Emma Jane Mugford (left) posing for a family portrait with her family. Mariner Robert John Mugford arrived in Sooke from Newfoundland in 1887. (Contributed - Sooke Region Museum)

Elida Peers | Contributed

A century ago, the Mugford family was a mainstay of this pioneer community. The Mugford Board & Lodging House, built in 1899, provided a place to stay for those away from home.

Today you can easily find the location for the home where “Aunt Janie” Mugford offered good food and a warm welcome to travellers and workers such as schoolteachers needing a home away from home. For many years now, the Chevron station at the northwest corner of Sooke Road and Church Road has occupied this site which has seen decades of hospitality.

Mariner Robert John Mugford arrived in Sooke from Newfoundland in 1887. His schooner was used for fishing and transporting supplies for settlers, earning him enough cash to buy the corner acreage on Church Road from landholder John Murray.

He returned to Newfoundland for a bride and, in 1896, returned with Emma Jane Bradley and their infant son Bertram.

High seas overtook their boat on the journey from Victoria to Sooke, and they were forced to throw their furniture overboard to lighten the load. Like most pioneers, they made do and survived to tell the tale.

While Robert John built the two-storey boarding house, earned a living with his boat, and continued to build homes for settlers, Emma Jane grew a vegetable garden, planting berries and fruit trees as well, enabling her to set a hearty table.

Robert John Mugford took a leading role in community affairs, serving as a school trustee for 35 years and as a volunteer firefighter. His wife was a charter member of the Sooke & North Sooke Women’s Institute.

Their eldest son Bertram (Bert), seen standing in this photo, grew up with mariner’s blood as well, becoming the radio operator on the federal government’s lighthouse tender, Estevan. One of his exciting stops was at Comox, where he noticed a derelict railway locomotive and managed to relieve it of its bell, bringing it back to Sooke, where it was installed as the signal bell for Sooke Superior School. Today, the same bell continues duty at the Sooke Region Museum.

The son pictured at right is Robert (Bob), who grew up to enlist in the navy during the Second World War. Bob had married Violet Eve, and the couple had three children, Patricia, John and Peter. Sadly, while on shore leave, Bob Mugford lost his life in an accident at the Sooke Potholes.


Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email

MORE HISTORY: Sooke men went off to war

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