Sooke Harbour was once a thriving and active place.

Sooke Harbour was once a thriving and active place.

Sooke’s working waterfront

Another interesting story written by Sooke Historical Society's historian Elida Peers

One hundred years ago the base of Maple Avenue on Sooke Harbour was the scene of the village’s most important economic enterprise, the J H Todd & Sons fishtraps operations. Beginning in 1904, the Todd’s method of catching salmon had an enormous impact on Sooke’s development. In a community with a population of only a few hundred people, the Company provided paycheques for a workforce some forty or fifty men.

Slightly left of center, we observe the tower of the piledriver rising above the waterfront structures. Were we able to see detail more clearly, we would note that Maple Avenue heads downward from the main Sooke Road, on the right of the building in the photo’s center, towards the water where it joins with the J H Todd wharf.

Starting from the photo’s left, the white building is the Todd webshed, the smaller white building behind it is the cookhouse where the men ate their meals, and the darker building on the same level is the Company bunkhouse. In front of the bunkhouse is the wire shed, where the rolls of wire were stored, with the pile driver standing nearby.

Alongside the piledriver is a coal-burning vessel used by Todds prior to their use of vessels of their own design. The next building is the tar shed; next a small shorefront cabin lived in by fishtraps worker Fred Underwood and his family. The cannery building is the next large building in line. Directly above the cannery roof in the photo is the Robert Muir house, “Springside”, which had been built in 1884. Were it still standing today, Springside’s graceful two-storey structure would be seen to the east of Caldwell Road, if one were driving along West Coast Road.

Our local coastline from Beechey Head to Kirby Creek (Coal Creek) was dotted with the massive pile-driven fishtraps structures which extended almost half a mile into the Strait to intercept salmon on their way to their home rivers to spawn. In 1918 a similar group operating in Port Townsend came to Sooke to join with Todds to form Sooke Harbour Fishing and Packing Company, an enterprise which continued operating until 1958.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum

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