ay picnickers enjoyed boating on DeMamiel Stream. The T’Sou-ke canoe they were using had been fitted with oarlocks; aboard were Jack & Matilda Gordon (think Moss Cottage) Arthur Floyer, brothers John & Tom Murray, their sister Janet and Muir sisters Maude, Alice & Edith.
Decades before, the lovely shaded stream had been named. Irish-born Cesarine Sophia Jane DeMamiel arrived in Sooke in 1864 at the age of 25. She had travelled to the new colony to visit her sister Mrs. Alex Chambers, wife of a lighthouse keeper at Race Rocks. Sophia was friends with Matilda Welsh who had also come out from Ireland and who had been wooed and wed by Michael Muir. Out visiting with the Muirs in Sooke, Sophia was invited to stay on as governess / nursemaid.
She began with two young charges in 1864: Isabella Muir, 6, who had been orphaned when her mother Isabella Weir and her father Andrew Muir (first sheriff of Victoria) had died when she was an infant; and John Stephens Muir, 4, son of Robert Muir and Christina Stephens. As well, in 1865, both Michael Muir’s wife Matilda and Robert’s wife Christina gave birth to baby girls, so Sooke’s immigrant community now had four youngsters to raise. It would be 1872 before a school was built and a teacher hired.
Gold was discovered in the Leech in 1864 and frenzied miners were trying to find routes to transport their supplies to the goldfields. Michael Muir and Jamie Welsh planned a horseback trip to explore the west side of the Sooke River for an accessible route. The adventurous young governess asked to accompany the men, so an extra horse was saddled.
Half a mile from the mouth of the Sooke River, the party forded the stream that flowed into the Sooke from the lakes and valleys of the western hills. The gallant group of men suddenly realized that their guest was probably the first immigrant young lady to see the stream, and decided to honour her by naming the meandering brook “DeMamiel Stream.”
I would like to relate that Sophia DeMamiel remained in the community to become a part of Sooke’s frontier life but it was not to be. In 1866 Sophia married Coote Chambers, brother of the light keeper, and while they were on a trip to San Francisco, she passed away the following year.
Elida Peers, Historian
Sooke Region Museum