SOOKE HISTORY: Welsh family has a long history in Sooke

James Welsh was a landholder on Sooke tax rolls in 1865

Elida Peers | Contributed

In this early-1940s photo, Patriarch is William Welsh, son of James Welsh, who was recorded as a landholder on Sooke tax rolls in 1865. James Welsh and his sisters, Annie and Matilda, from County Meath, Ireland, were vital in early Sooke history. The two sisters married into the pioneering John Muir family; Matilda married Michael in 1862, and Annie married John (Jr) in 1874.

The Muirs employed James Welsh at their sawmill and on the farm at Woodside. In 1869 he was sent to the old country for a bride, and Woodside became the scene of his marriage to Mary Ellen Flynn.


The young couple made their home in Moss Cottage. James and Mary Ellen Welsh had six children in Moss Cottage, but sadly, in 1880, Mary Ellen passed away in childbirth. A visit to the restored Muir cemetery on Maple Avenue allows one to see Mary Welsh’s headstone, her twin babies beside her.

With his mother’s passing and his father’s despair, eldest child William Welsh was raised by his aunt and uncle, John (Jr.) and Annie Welsh Muir, at Woodside. He married Emma Way, set up a dairy farm on Maple Avenue, and raised four there. In this photo, his youngest son Patrick is left next to his only daughter Helen, and his wife, Emma. In front are eldest son Ernie and son Harold, in his navy uniform. A visit to the historic Muir cemetery will also show that the burial of Emma Welsh in 1969 was the last to occur there.

Son Ernie Welsh became well-known in the community, establishing a farm in the Grant Road, Caldwell Road area. After the Sooke Region Museum opening in 1977, it was Ernie, at that time owner of the historic Moss Cottage, which still stood on West Coast Road, who gifted it to the museum, where it was restored.

Next, son Harold established himself in the Campbell River area after his wartime service, and son Pat went into business in the village of Sooke.

Daughter Helen took a job in retail and office work at Gibson’s Cottage Store after Bob Gibson established a retail enterprise at the corner of Otter Point and Sooke Road at the close of the Second World War. Married to Joe Yost, she accompanied him to other locales in the province, and they retired in Victoria. Helen was a devoted supporter of the museum, supplying us with excellent assistance.


Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.


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