Fire lookout on Mt. Shepherd

The mountain that changed its name

Another interesting historical story by Elida Peers

The fire lookout (1950s) on Mt. Shepherd was first erected in the 1920s. Hikers sometimes ask how Mt. Shepherd became Mt. Manuel Quimper. It’s an interesting story.

In 1846, under the command of Captain Henry Kellett, the Royal Navy vessel HMS Herald surveyed Sooke Harbour and Basin. On his expedition, Captain Kellett, recognizing the efforts of his crew, bestowed their names on certain physical features noted on the journey. For example, J. G. Whiffin was a crew member, hence his name remains today, marking the ever-popular Whiffin Spit.

Mt. Shepherd was the name given to the 1,800-foot peak that rises on the skyline as we look northeast towards the Sooke Hills. When this fire lookout structure was built, it provided shelter for a fire spotter each summer who could radio the Forest Service if a fire was spotted. Supplies and water were brought in throughout the summer season. Similar shelters were built on peaks such as Mt. Empress and Mt. Matheson.

In 1953 there was a move in Sooke to establish a branch of the Masonic Lodge. Dr. W. J. McCauley, a dentist from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, hosted an organizational meeting at his home near Harbourview Road, Saseenos, which boasted a view of Mt. Shepherd as a backdrop to the setting of the meeting.

The group of men decided to adopt the name Mt. Shepherd Lodge #159. The lodge has continued to operate over the years, and meets today in a re-cycled building (once Knox Presbyterian Church) on Throup Road.

Little did they guess that in 1939, unbeknownst to most Sooke residents, Mt. Shepherd had been re-named Mt. Manuel Quimper by two men who had the power to do so. According to information supplied to us long ago by Eric Bernard – Claude Harrison, Victoria’s City Prosecutor, and George Aitken, Chief Geographer of B.C., teamed up to re-name the peak in honour of the Spaniard who entered Sooke Harbour in 1790, Sub-Lt. Manuel Quimper, commander of the captured vessel Princesa Real.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum

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