SOOKE HISTORY: Pemberton Pool namesake remains a mystery

Historian believes it was possibly named after surveyor Joseph Despard Pemberton

Boy Scouts enjoy the coolness of the Sooke River during a hot summer day in 1936. (Sooke Region Museum)

Elida Peers | Contributed

Not long ago I received a phone call from Sooke resident Phoebe Dunbar enquiring if I knew the origin of the name of the widening bend section of the Sooke River that’s called Pemberton Pool.

While I did not know, I gave it some thought, and suggested surveyor Joseph Despard Pemberton, who produced the official government surveys of the region around Victoria in the 1850s and 1860s might be the reason for the name.

The original survey map held in the provincial Ministry of Lands (a copy is also at the Sooke Region Museum) shows his survey of the Sooke area was produced in 1858.

The photo shown here shows Boy Scouts enjoying the coolness of the river back in the sweltering days in the summer of 1936.

John Martin Sr. was scoutmaster and his troop of Boy Scouts were invited to camp at the Martin property, situated between the river and Sooke River Road, with access to Pemberton Pool.

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For many years the Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society has carried out its harvesting of chinook and coho salmon each fall at Pemberton Pool, and transported the harvested fish to its hatchery for processing, incubation of the eggs, and growing of the fry in tanks when they develop.

Forward-thinking people at the Capital Regional District moved to acquire the property neighbouring the pool on the east bank of the river when it became available a few years ago, ensuring a harvesting area into the future.

J D Pemberton arrived in Victoria from England in 1851 and was hired as surveyor by the Hudson’s Bay Company. This changed in 1859 when he was appointed by Governor James Douglas as Surveyor-General for the new colony. He also served as a Member of the Legislative assembly for several years.

The family has been prominent in Victoria affairs since those early years, engaging particularly in real estate.

While watching the Victoria Day Parade last week, I noticed that one of the parade sponsors was the realty firm of Pemberton Holmes. It is noteworthy that the same family has remained active in Victoria affairs for more than 150 years.

We are making the assumption that it was, indeed, this pioneering surveyor whose name became attached to this beautiful area of the Sooke River, but should it be that there is actually another Pemberton who is being remembered here, we would welcome learning of it from readers.

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Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

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