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SOOKE HISTORY: A look back at the Charters family’s impact on the south Island

William Bell Charters and his wife, Lousie, arrived in 1865
The Charters family posing for a family photograph in a Victoria studio. (Sooke Region Museum)

Elida Peers | Contributed

Charters River flows into Sooke River; you pass the Charters River bridge on your way to the Potholes. When I was young, this tributary of the Sooke River was called East Branch by the settler families.

In 1865, William Bell Charters and his wife, accompanied by the first of their children, arrived to take up land on the west side of Sooke River, near where it flows into the harbour. William Bell Sr. and his wife Louise raised a large family; their many descendants have helped shape the history of southern Vancouver Island.

It is perhaps an odd paradox that William Phillips, who became a neighbour in 1868, and went on to marry Janet Milne from across the river, raised six children, none of their youngsters leaving any issue, while the Charters family has helped populate the community.

This delightful historic photo, which comes to us from a Charters descendant, Jack Wormald, must have been taken at a Victoria studio. Standing left to right, the youngsters of William Bell Sr. and Louise have been identified as Mary; Margaret, who married Newfoundlander Richard Cains; Louise, who married Ed Sheilds; Kate, who married Tom Fuller. Seated are Nancy, who married John Stockand; Jessie, the youngest, who married Charles Latoria; William Bell Jr, who married Stella Fraser and for many years ran a sawmill off the roadway now called Belvista.

We do not have a photograph of the substantial Charters family home that stood on the northwest side of Sooke Road just before you reached the top of the hill where Charters Road meets Sooke Road. I recall the house well, though the Charters family no longer lived there, as we kids entertained ourselves by lobbing horse chestnuts at each other on the way to school. It was the Charters family who had planted the horse chestnut trees.

When Charters’s daughter Louise married Ed Sheilds, the couple had three little ones before husband Ed was lost in a sealing tragedy. Louise married Edward Shute and was once again widowed. Next, she married William Gosnell, and it is the Gosnell daughter Cathleen who was to become the mother to Jack Wormald.

Jack and Lynn Wormald have been Otter Point residents for many years. They often enjoy visiting with a cousin, Darryl Sheilds, grandson of blacksmith Lyall Sheilds, as they chat about the pioneer grandmother they share, Louise Charters.


Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email

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