The three Richardson wives are seen here with neighbours at Whiffin Spit. (Sooke Region Museum)

The three Richardson wives are seen here with neighbours at Whiffin Spit. (Sooke Region Museum)

SOOKE HISTORY: Richardsons helped Sooke grow

Three brothers moved here in 2011

Elida Peers | Contributed

Three Richardson brothers arrived here in Sooke from Britain in May 1911, accompanied by their new brides. The six walked 15 miles from Goldstream to reach Sooke, and spent their first night at the Mugford Boarding House.

The next day they saw the five acres they had purchased bought near the base of Whiffin Spit, where they set up tents. Their arrival was propitious, as the area was experiencing a land boom.

The three wives are seen here at their Whiffin Spit campsite, along with neighbours across the water on the East Sooke side, the Donaldsons, who’d rowed across the water to offer support. Mrs. Donaldson is at the left with her son Alex, standing, and the ladies are May, wife of Harry, Flo, wife of Charlie, and Emmie, wife of Vernon.

The Richardson brothers were sons of a Leicestershire shopkeeper. Harry was a trained carpenter, while Vernon and Charlie were quick to learn, taking odd jobs throughout the village at first.

Structures built by the Richardson brothers included Ragley in East Sooke, Margison House on Sooke Road and Holy Trinity Anglican Church on Murray Road.

While initially shocked at their surroundings, the women learned to cook on a stove made from an oil can with holes punched in the sides and filled with fir cones. Daily they walked the trail to the Muir farm (Woodside) where they bought eggs and milk. Sometimes they were given ducks shot on the Spit, but the women found them fishy.

A four way traffic signal sends its beam today approximately where Charlie Richardson built his building supplies store at what was then the foot of Church Road. Further down the hill stood a fine home built by Harry before he went back to England to enlist – he did not return from the war – now we see the Mariner complex established in this area.

Vernon Richardson and his wife Emmie built on Church Road; their stuccoed house still stands today, just about where Wadams Way meets Church Road. Among Vernon and Emmie’s family of four, their son Frank was the best known; a community-minded person, he took on many roles to serve the community in addition to running the store begun by his uncle Charlie.

Considering the importance of the Richardson contribution to Sooke’s development in earlier years, it’s a surprise that there’s no road named for the family. Perhaps a future developer might want to consider using the Richardson name.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

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