With the renewed interest in farming that we are experiencing, readers might be interested in this barn that dominated the landscape of downtown Sooke for 60 years.
Built between the roads we know as Caldwell and Gatewood, it stood a distance northwest of the Sooke Road (now West Coast Road). The barn was built by Robert Muir, third son of John Muir Sr., who had come out from Scotland with his wife Anne in 1849 to supervise the mining of coal in the new colony.
Robert Muir was not a young man in 1895 when he built the barn, and was aided in the task by his sons Curtis and William Urquhart. In time Curtis Muir became owner of this parcel, and added the leanto section on the left, for cattle and sheep.
After Curtis Muir passed away in 1947, the land was owned by the Vantreight farming family of Saanich. While Vantreight grew produce and bulbs, the barn itself does not appear to have been actively used in that later period, except by neighbouring young fellows who loved climbing up to the rafters to jump into the old hay stored below.
One tale that came to us was about the old horse-drawn sleigh stored in the corner, painted red with scow paint from the fishtraps. In the years that the barn had an absentee landlord and Sooke had a good snowfall, the heavy old sleigh would be dragged out and towed behind someone’s vehicle. A good route would be up the higher elevations of Phillips or Sooke River Road where the snow was deeper.
Former Sooke resident Darryl Sheilds reminded us of a sleighride taken by a bunch of fun-lovers that included himself, his sister Beverly, Vernon Musfelt, Ed Morris, Frida Jensen, Bill Stephenson, Shirley Talbot and Tuck Vowles, when the sleigh ended piled up in a drift. (Note: Shirley later married Tuck.)
No doubt in the natural course of events the barn would have been long gone by now because of residential development, but as history unfolded, it burned to the ground in the mid-1950s. It seems that when the Sooke Volunteer Firemen were at the Sooke Community Hall celebrating their annual Firemen’s Ball, they were called out to a mysterious fire started in the hay. The sleigh went too.
Elida Peers, Historian
Sooke Region Museum