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SOOKE HISTORY: Shirley’s young pioneers

Elida Peers | Contributed
Shirley School students pose for a photograph in 1922. The Arden, Clark and Milligan families are highlighted here. (Contributed - Sooke News Mirror)

Elida Peers | Contributed

When these rural youngsters were photographed in 1922, they could not have imagined that a century later, we would proudly show them off as a hardy group of young people who took a strong role in the shaping of our community.

In 1922, youngsters enjoyed the benefits of a schoolhouse for six years, as Shirley School was opened in 1916 and remained until 1946 when Shirley youngsters were bused to Elder’s Camp School (Muir Creek).

Arden, Clark and Milligan were the three families highlighted here, and unquestionably those families have left their imprint. Miss Allen was the teacher who shepherded her flock near what is now Sheringham Point Road. Stan Clark stands alongside the teacher.

Middle row: Violet Asprey, Wilf Clark, George Clark, Lewis Milligan, Emily Asprey. Front row: Sturdee Arden, Irene Clark, Evelyn Clark, unidentified, Philip Arden, Frances Arden. While the photograph was given to us by Winnie Arden (Michelsen), she and brother Richard, as the youngest Ardens, were not yet in school.

The Clark family had a very large presence in Shirley and Otter Point, having first arrived in the community from Britain in the late 1800s. Edwin and Christine Campbell Clark raised nine sons, who were mostly engaged in forestry, and a daughter Christine who became a nurse in the Yukon. Evelyn Clark became well known as Mrs. Victor Eve and then widowed, became Mrs. Elmer (Smoky) Stolth, leaving many Sooke descendants. Among the most locally prominent today are probably Laurie Szadkowski and Doni Eve.

The Milligan family was in logging, with many employees, and set up a camp town in Shirley. They built miles of plank roads for hauling their logs to water. It was a Milligan brother who later became the first operator of the Sooke Hotel “beer parlour” when it opened in 1936 next to Sooke River bridge.

Eustace Arden, father of six youngsters who attended Shirley School, was the first lightkeeper at Sheringham Point. He was awarded a medal for his service, from 1912 to 1936. The Arden sons have mainly been in forestry as well, and today we have a well-known businessman descendant, Dale Arden, known to many.

Eldest Arden’s daughter Frances, who became Mrs. Tony Sullivan, was recognized as a motherly figure - two of her youngsters still in Sooke today are Rodney Sullivan and Lynda Sullivan Fisk. While the Asprey family lived at Coal Creek (now Kirby Creek) to my knowledge they did not remain in the area.


Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email