SOOKE HISTORY: Murray House – a community gathering place

SOOKE HISTORY: Murray House – a community gathering place

Elida Peers | Contributed

We frequently drive by the intersection where Murray Road meets Sooke and Otter Point roads. John and Tom Murray, from Greenoch, Scotland, arrived in 1886, and built this farmhouse on their 180-acre property, facing Sooke Harbour.

Pictured in 1888, it stood on what is today Goodmere Road, on the east side of Murray Road. In the photo, we see Tom Murray, along with sister Janet at far left, who had arrived a year after her brothers.

The bricks that were used by pioneer stonemason Jonas Throup to build the chimneys and fireplaces were barged to Sooke from Victoria. The Murrays grew produce and had a small cow herd for milk and butter.

Though the Murray brothers and their sister were all single, John Murray, doing business in Victoria, had met the matron of the Jubilee Hospital, Margaret MacMillan, and the two were married in 1899.

MacMillan began to take a leading role in providing medical help in the community. John Murray became a member of the legislature and was appointed a justice of the peace. He held court proceedings in this house, which became the centre of much comings and goings.

Sister Janet, a good hearted lady, for her part offered social activities for the town’s young ladies, who gathered to take classes with her on Friday afternoons.

The Murrays’ foster daughter Margaret King (later Mrs. Kai Jensen) shared many good memories of growing up with the kindly Murrays. In time, some of Kai Jensen’s dairy herd pastured in the fields.

One of my early memories and special treats occurred when I was four years old; I was invited on a trip in the back of a pickup truck on a dusty gravel road to Jordan River, seated on blankets along with the widowed Granny Murray and the Jensen kids.

This house remained until about 1970. Though the Murrays were long gone, it had been bought by Joe Despard, and resold to Gordie Eve. While Gordie built his home next door, which is used today as a wellness centre, he rented this structure out. Among the renters were the Bert Ogden family and Dave and Nancy Smith. Adele Gibbs, who lives nearby, remembers the fun of playing in the old house with the Ogden kids.

Eventually the house was burned down as a practice fire for the Sooke Fire Rescue. Later the lot it stood on became home to a series of other residents, including the Bert Prince family and the Earl Smith family. Development has now taken place on virtually all available spaces of what was once the old pioneer Murray farm.

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Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.