SOOKE HISTORY: The Richard Cains’ legacy

Richard Cains, a Newfoundlander, arrived in Sooke in 1890, and from that time until this week, when his grandson Richard (Dick) Cains passed on at the age of 97, the Cains name has been a staple of our community’s history.

The photo shows the vessel Britannia, one of several boats built by Cains, as it was anchored at Goodridge Peninsula in 1942. The backdrop for the photo is the Canadian National Railway, now the Galloping Goose, on its route just a bit east of Coopers Cove.

While Richard Cains was a mariner who sailed around the Horn to reach our west coast and became a sealer, his real love was boatbuilding. In 1902 he built a 60 foot sloop called Western Slope, an event so significant in the tiny Sooke community of a few hundred souls that a school holiday was declared at her launching

In 1896 he married Margaret, one of six daughters of William Bell Charters. They raised a daughter Jessie who married Sooke farmer, Ralph Strong, and two sons, William and Kenneth, who established Sooke’s first service garage in the mid-1920s. The Cains brothers operating for half a century at a Sooke Road location that later became a welding shop for Rasmus Rabien and headquarters for Sooke Backhoe. Today this structure has been converted back, and is a four-bay service garage known as West Shack.

William Cains married Irene Arden, and raised a son Richard who earned a degree in mechanical engineering, expanding his interest beyond the garage to sawmilling and land development. He married a girl from another well-known family, Mary Stephenson (yes, sister to Sooke’s longtime fire-fighting volunteer Bill Stephenson). Those who have bought homes with a wonderful view at Mount Matheson, owe their fine subdivision location to Richard Cains the younger. One of those streets bears the name Cains Way, while another is called Western Slope.

As Richard and Mary raised three daughters, Diane, Heather and Debbie, but no sons, and as Ken and Jean Cains had one son Stanley who was childless, there is no one left to carry on the Cains name in Sooke today. In 2005 a tiny waterfront lot on Water Street was dedicated by the family to the District of Sooke, and a Heritage Shield sign honours this history.

Aboard the Britannia in this 1942 scene are Cains members, and Strongs, Lorimers, Charters, Stephensons, and Hansons, while the venerable “Poppa” Cains stands guard on shore.

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Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.

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