Quite a sight, this mid-1940s view of a spruce log being hauled across the railway line in the San Juan River Valley. Hauled by Frank Elliott, well-known as one of Port Renfrew’s most colourful characters.
Malahat Logging operated a railway (later run by B.C. Forest Products) that carried logs from the uplands of the San Juan Valley down to sea level in the region’s most important industry, forestry. This scene was an example of what happened when an independent smaller logging outfit crossed paths with a forestry giant.
At the time, Frank Elliott was driving truck for Stan Harrison Logging during the Second World War. At that point in history, Sitka spruce from B.C.’s west coast was a vital component of the aircraft industry, as spruce, a lightweight wood, was sought-after in aircraft construction.
According to Roy Hill, who provided the Sooke Region Museum with this picture, this log measured 7,000 board feet. In 1945, Roy Hill and his brothers, who all worked in the industry, moved to Port Renfrew with their parents, leaving the Interior for the west coast.
In later years, Roy and his wife bought the general store on the main highway in Saseenos, initially built by Charles Bickford, and supplied the community with groceries for many years. That structure now houses an environmental firm.
The Elliott family had great significance in the life of the isolated west coast village, which did not enjoy a road connection to Sooke until 1958. On my last visit to Port Renfrew, I stopped at the Elliott house on Beach Road, the oldest building in the community. Built around 1892 by telegraph linesman Joe Williams, the house was bought by Robert Elliott, a farmer who’d made a move from Prince Edward Island.
This cottage became home to several generations of the Elliott family and was home to Frank Elliott and his wife Joyce for many years.
In time, Frank’s reputation as a fishing guide eclipsed his work in forestry, and he had become in much demand from visitors around the world. Perhaps the most illustrious of his clients was John Diefenbaker, on his trip to the coast, when he was taken out for the big ones by the Frank Elliott, stopping to enjoy lunch afterwards in the cozy Elliott cottage.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email email@example.com.