SOOKE HISTORY: Resource industry was once the backbone of Sooke economy

Historic Muir steam sawmill mural graces Sooke Community Hall

This group of industry leaders was the cornerstone of Sooke resource industry in its day. (Sooke Region Museum photo)

This group of industry leaders was the cornerstone of Sooke resource industry in its day. (Sooke Region Museum photo)

Elida Peers | Contributed

While today we see a large part of our local population commuting to work in Victoria, historically, resource industries were the backbone of the area’s economy.

The stage of Sooke Community Hall provided the setting here, where representatives of many Sooke area activities came together to speak of our history. Our group was gathered in front of a mural of the historic Muir Steam sawmill, which itself had led the local economy from the 1850s through the 1880s. Our scene represents industries from the 20th century.

First is Ed Morris, initially employed at the fishtraps, later mainly in the forest industry. Sadly, his dad, Arthur Morris, lost his life in the woods, through what we used to call “a widowmaker” and it was for him that Sooke’s Art Morris Park was named.

Next is Rodney Sullivan, scion of the pioneer Sullivan and Arden families. Rodney was employed at the fishtraps, by Sooke Harbour Fishing & Packing Company, and later became a boom man for Len Jones’ Sooke Harbour Booming.

Joe Zigay arrived here from the interior in the 1950s and spent his life running heavy equipment in the forest industry. Gerhart Hansen was born in Saseenos, his dad a faller for Elder Logging, while Gerhart has been a fisherman and logger throughout his lifetime.

Next is Dick Herrling, well known for his community leadership and logging sports championships, who worked as a faller for Butlers and as a bull bucker in the north island.

Len Jones is in the vest, centre, and comes from an entrepreneurial family. His dad was in business, and Len worked in the forest industry, built a log booming company, and with his brother Stan, developed Sooke’s first shopping centre, Cedar Grove.

Pat Forrest, next, followed his dad in the fishing industry. Where his dad had been an engineer for Sooke Harbour Fishing & Packing Company’s boats. Pat ran a salmon troller, the West Foreland.

Darryl Sheilds comes from a family that first settled by the Sooke River in 1883. His dad was employed at the fishtraps as well, and Darryl went on to work for Island Tug and Barge.

Laurie Wilson’s dad was a fisheries officer who later went into business; Laurie put himself through university working at the fishtraps and went into teaching in Victoria.

Last in line is Stan Jones, twin brother to Len, who worked in forestry and then went into business with Cedar Grove Mall. Stan Jones Park was named in his memory.

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Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

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