The monster piece of logging equipment pictured is a bull block. In earlier days, the block would be situated at the height of a spar tree in a position to guide the steel cable in the direction which the operator wanted, to move the log being lifted, eventually to be loaded onto a truck. (Sooke Region Museum)

The monster piece of logging equipment pictured is a bull block. In earlier days, the block would be situated at the height of a spar tree in a position to guide the steel cable in the direction which the operator wanted, to move the log being lifted, eventually to be loaded onto a truck. (Sooke Region Museum)

SOOKE HISTORY: Butler brothers bull block logs in at a record size

Steel spars and grapple loaders eventually replaced bull blocks in logging industry

Elida Peers | Contributed

In 1946 four Saanich brothers, Claude, Wally, Eric and Tom Butler bought a timber sale in Section 55 Otter District and began a forestry company that they would run for three decades, harvesting the hillsides reaching as far as Leech River and the upper Jordan.

The main hauling road they initiated was called Butler Main, and is still well-known today, with many spurs reaching out through the hills. Harvesting that took place included Douglas-fir, red and yellow cedar, Sitka Spruce, balsam, hemlock and white pine, and provided employment for more than a hundred workers.

The monster piece of logging equipment pictured here is a block. You’ve heard the expression “block and tackle;” in this case, in the high lead logging practiced here in earlier days, the block would be situated at the height of a spar tree in a position to guide the steel cable in the direction which the operator wanted, to move the log being lifted, eventually to be loaded onto a truck.

READ ALSO: Sooke author shines light on autism in new children’s book

The block pictured is extra-ordinarily large, called a bull block, weighs over a ton, and was built by Washington Iron Works. Some of the loggers who worked with this block in the woods were Gerry Neal, Ed and Len Jay, Marshall Smith, Alf Shambrook, Frank Jessiman and Ray Pimlott.

In time, Ray Pimlott became foreman at Butlers, and in the 1970s when the introduction of steel spars and grapple loaders took over the industry, this block became redundant. It was given to Ray Pimlott by Wally Butler, and reputed to be the largest in the world, enjoyed pride of place at his West Coast Road home until he moved up-island in 1989.

Ultimately, the Pimlott family arranged that this historic piece of Sooke logging equipment was returned to our community and it rests today, courtesy of Alden Govenlock and Galen Parman, near the entrance to the Sooke Region Museum, nestled appropriately between trees of the rainforest.

While the Butler brothers sold the company and retired from logging in the late 1970s, Wally’s son Bruce tells us that though he was only a toddler when the family moved here, his dad would take him along in the truck on his business chores. Bruce also recalls that a couple of well-known Sooke seniors, Ray Vowles and Pat Forrest, were just youngsters when they cut their teeth in the work force with Butlers.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This rendering shows the proposed warehouse for lands under the authority of the Victoria Airport Authority near a Sidney residential neighbourhood. (York Realty/Submitted).
Sidney calls on Victoria Airport Authority to improve design of planned warehouse

Council stops short of a definitive statement for or against proposal

A partnership is looking to identify skeletal remains that were discovered by recreational divers in the Gorge Waterway this February. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Divers find partial human skull in Gorge Waterway

B.C. Coroner Service determines remains likely historical, not ancestral

A man was arrested after allegedly threatening people downtown on May 10 while brandishing this knife. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Man armed with a knife arrested for allegedly threatening people in downtown Victoria

Officers used de-escalation techniques during afternoon arrest

Colwood council voted to give businesses less of a cut than planned and will look for more cuts this week. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood council gets back to work after voting against 9.3% property tax hike

Emergency meetings this week will find more cuts, finalize tax plan by Friday deadline

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Two-year-old Kashius Weme rides at the Steve Smith Memorial Bike Park in Nanaimo on Tuesday, May 11. The youngster’s precocious bike-riding ability is already attracting cycle sponsors. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
2-year-old bike rider on Vancouver Island already attracting cycle sponsors

Nanaimo’s Kashius Weme has a knack for extreme cycle sports

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Most Read