Since Sooke’s incorporation as a municipality, we’ve been accustomed to thinking of the Sun River subdivision as our area’s major subdividing project. That’s questionable.
In 1921 – more than 100 years ago – the Saseenos subdivision encompassed 1,000 acres.
The girl on the left of our photo, Sophie George, is credited with giving the area its charming name: “sunny land gently sloping from the sea.”
Sophie, the eldest child of Agnes and Louis George, is seated with her siblings Lizzie, Mabel and Lewis. While this photo was taken in 1914, a few years later, Sophie sought her grandmother’s help in winning the naming competition.
The land that stretches from Sooke Harbour Cemetery at Idlemore Road eastward to include Coopers Cove was acquired by the Franco-Canadian Company in Vancouver in 1920, much of it due to a tax sale.
The Lannan family (think Lannan Creek) lived at today’s Kaltasin and Billings roads and farmed the area nearly as far east as Harbourview Road. At that time, oats were planted on that sunny hillside, and cattle roamed throughout.
Land prices were meagre compared to today’s prices, with property taxes coming to only a few dollars a year.
Pioneer settlers frequently had little cash, so that if you owed property tax of $20 and you did not have $20, you were in trouble. Sometimes settlers could settle their taxes by getting a few days of roadwork from the Highways maintenance programs, but if that option weren’t available, the province would offer their land on a tax sale. It was in this way that the developers, Franco-Canadian Company, became significant landowners.
The realty firm entrusted to develop and sell the lands was Alfred Carmichael Ltd., and work began apace. Carmichael often stopped at the Sooke Harbour Hotel, which was managed by Maj. George Nicholson and he and the major decided to run a competition to name the new subdivision. It was only natural that young Sophie, who worked at the hotel, was drawn into the discussion, and went home across the river to seek advice from her grandmother, the matriarch Mary George.
Sure enough, with her grandma’s help, Sophie won the prize, and the “sunny land gently sloping from the sea” became Saseenos. Today that description is just as fitting as it was 100 years ago.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.