When D.O. Cameron, a Texan, arrived here and began harvesting timber deep in the Sooke River watershed in the 1930s and established a sawmill at Leechtown, who could have guessed that there would one day be a connection to the U.S. White House.
Cameron’s son Newton carried on his family’s forestry empire, and it is his son Ian Cameron, who went into journalism and TV production, that is our White House link.
Ian is married to Susan Rice, newly appointed to president-elect Joe Biden’s cabinet. Rice was named director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.
This is not the first prominent position for Rice, a Rhodes scholar, who met her future husband when they were both attending Stanford University.
During the Obama administration, she served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Ian Cameron became an executive producer for the CBC television news show The Journal, in Toronto, and Susan Rice joined him there, before her appointments in U.S. politics. They married in 1992.
Peter Titus, well-known locally as an artist, son of Rev. Joe and Joan Titus, recalls that Ian Cameron was a year ahead of him, and president of the student council when they both attended Oak Bay High. Peter’s eldest brother Stephen Titus is married to Ian Cameron’s sister Laura, who completes the Sooke-White House circle.
Stephen and Laura live at Shawnigan Lake, where they also share the family property with the celebrity couple from Washington when they come up to visit. Chatting with Laura, we learned that she and her brother, Ian, regularly call to update family affairs and that sometimes the visiting couple takes in Whistler on their vacation trips.
In 1934, the Camerons built a steam sawmill on the CNR line at Leechtown, cutting western white pine, western red cedar, and Douglas-fir. The Camerons also teamed up with Matt Hemmingsten to cut timber near Port Renfrew, and son Newton logged near the Summit on Sooke Road, dumping at Coopers Cove in the late 1930s.
Years ago, Newton Cameron told us that in 1947 the Cameron Lumber Company was sold, becoming part of B.C. Forest Products, but the Leechtown operation was retained, and the new company called Sooke Lake Lumber Ltd. They built a veneer mill on Esquimalt Harbour, and after the Leechtown mill burned, the View Royal veneer plant was enlarged into a full-scale plywood operation, and in 1955 the name changed to Victoria Plywood.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.