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Roy, Frank and the Giant Spruce Log – Sooke News Mirror

Quite a sight, this mid-1940s view of a spruce log being hauled across the railroad tracks in the San Juan River Valley. Carried by Frank Elliott, well known as one of Port Renfrew’s most colorful characters.

Malahat Logging operated a railroad (later operated by BC Forest Products) that carried logs from the highlands of the San Juan Valley down to sea level in the region’s most important industry, forestry. This scene was an example of what happened when a small independent logging company crossed paths with a forestry giant.

At the time, Frank Elliott drove a truck for Stan Harrison Logging during World War II. At this time in history, Sitka spruce from the west coast of British Columbia was an essential part of the aircraft industry, as spruce, a lightweight wood, was sought after in aircraft construction.

According to Roy Hill, who provided this photo to the Sooke Area Museum, this log measured 7,000 board feet. In 1945 Roy Hill and his brothers, all of whom worked in industry, moved to Port Renfrew with their parents, leaving the interior for the west coast.

Later, Roy and his wife bought the general store on the main road in Saseenos, originally built by Charles Bickford, and supplied the community with groceries for many years. This structure now houses an environmental company.

The Elliott family was of great importance in the life of the remote west coast village, which only had a road connection to Sooke in 1958. On my last visit to Port Renfrew, I stopped at the Elliott house on Beach Road, the oldest building in the community. Built circa 1892 by telegrapher Joe Williams, the house was purchased by Robert Elliott, a farmer who had moved from Prince Edward Island.

This cottage became the home of several generations of the Elliott family and was the home of Frank Elliott and his wife Joyce for many years.

Over time Frank’s reputation as a fishing guide eclipsed his work in forestry and he had become much in demand with visitors from all over the world. Perhaps the most illustrious of his patrons was John Diefenbaker, on his trip to the coast, when he was taken for the grown-ups by the Frank Elliott, stopping afterwards for lunch in the comfortable Elliott Cottage.


Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email [email protected]

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