Away from Spotted Lake and the Richter Pass, the eastbound Crowsnest Highway starts its dramatic career down into the Okanagan Valley. Just as a bicycle begins to get really rolling, a huge lookout balloons pavement out onto a bluff on the left, affording a panoramic view over the famous Okanagan valley, heart of B.C.s orchard industry and for long years the vacation destination for half of Western Canada.
Its precipitous walls attest to the Valleys genesis as a graben, a sunken block of land between two parallel fault lines. It is a 400 kilometre long continuation that same rift which the Columbia River breaks into some 100 kilometres south of here and follows down the length of Washington state. Twisting its way past this viewpoint, the rift eventually peters out in dendritic fractures north beyond the Trans-Canada Highway. Hidden from sight by the valleys meanders, the hundred crooked kilometres of Lake Okanagan are said to seclude the serpentine Ogopogo, distant relative of Loch Nesss famous denizen. Materialising from the heat haze, the Okanagan River, levied and weird, meanders down its valleys bottom patched green by intensive farming and the Rivers largess. Across the valley, the Osoyoos Indian Reserve Number Two of the Sukwnaqinxthe Okanagan Peopleoccupies most of what can be seen of the eastern escarpment and a substantial portion of the Okanagan Highlands behind it. Below the view-point lies the nine-mile length of international Lake Osoyoos, speared by spits and pinched nearly in half, its surface slashed by ski-boat wakes and spotted by sails. Reports Dorothy Fraser in A Short History and Description of Osoyoos (Osoyoos Museum Society, 1967), the Lake is a glacial remnant, formed when an enormous chunk of ice broke off a retreating glacier and was partially buried by outwash from valley-side streams. Scratching its way diagonally down the desiccated face of Mount Kruger, the Highway bridges the Lake at its pinch and vanishes on the Valleys eastern wall. Splashed across the Lakes pinch, Osoyoos worships the sun.
In what feels like two seconds, cyclists scream down the 400 vertical metres from the Lookout to the Valley bottom, past the informal little landing field on the left and the Buena Vista Industrial Park opposite. Nearing Osoyoos, the glitter of chromed litter in an extensive junk yard breaks through the camouflaging trees on the right, and the signage in front of the barren Casitas del Sol gated adult community promises those with cash enough for the down payment the easily financed realization of their suburban dreams. At the bottom of the grade, a traffic light controls the well service-stationed intersection of the Crowsnest Highway with Highway 3A/97.
Under the huge Canadian flag which floats above the Husky gas station/restaurant and neighbouring chamber of commerce tourist information trailer, the Intersection extinguishes Highway 3A southbound from up-valley and sends its travelling companion, 97, on alone to cross into Washington state four kilometres south. Picking up the 3As traffic, the eastbound Crowsnest becomes Main Street as it glides down into the heart of Osoyoos (227m). Sun typically blazing in a flawless azure sky, the steep valley walls trap the heat radiating from the wide, black streets. This Town bakes.
(A conscientious informant should at some point mention rattlesnakes in any treatment of the southern Okanagan valley. The subject could appear in a foot-note, say, related to …steep valley walls trap the heat…, above. However, some folks, in their eagerness to get into Osoyoos, might skip it, and it is essential information which the good folks in the C of C information trailer might be tempted to downplay. So, Ill plant it right here.
Those of you who have travelled with me in the Similkameen valley may recall a little paragraph woven into the penultimate chapter on my Princeton page in which I stated that the Northern Pacific subspecies of the rattlesnake, Crotalus viridis oreganos, have acclimatized themselves as far north as the Whistle Creek Valley, that large ravine debouching into the Similkameen from the Cathedral highlands just west of Hedley. Though it is unlikely that one will find a representative of the species slithering through the streets of Osoyoos, they do live in the Okanagan. While not the terrifyingly over-hyped Diamondback or Sidewinder of American mythology, vipers that can kill dinosaurs with the mere flick of a tongue, the oreganos is worthy of respect. They are venomous and equipped to deliver it. They range in temperament from docile to down-right testy, and they may not rattle a warning if they are suddenly surprised by, say, a hand reaching for a golf ball lying beside them in the rough, or a foot kicking at a log under which they are curled. Given time and reason, they will warn, and the foolhardy doofus who ignores this may well get a surprise of his/her own. They are quick and remorseless, can strike an amazingly long way, and drive their fangs through most footwear. To quote from the California Poison Control Systems webpage on the animal, …swelling, pain, and bleeding at the site of the bite, sweating chills, dizziness, weakness, numbness or tingling of the mouth or tongue, changes in the heart rate and blood pressure, salivation, thirst, swollen eyelids, blurred vision, muscle spasms, unconsciousness, improper blood clotting ability… could well occur if competent medical aid is not soon found. Remain calm. Seek aid. Unless U suffer and allergic reaction, you likely will not die. Do not apply a tourniquet, do not ice the wound, do not stab the injection site and attempt to suck out the venom. Having stated this, the Chamber of Commerce will want me to assure U that rattlesnakes are so rarely encountered in the environs of Osoyoos that they are barely worth the mention. However, if you happen across a specimen squished on the Highway and are tempted to stop and take its tail rattle as a souvenir, remember that the peculiar physiology of the beast enables even one freshly dead to strike.)
Visitors will soon forgive Osoyoos its pseudo-Spanish styling. At the end of the 1960s, needing a gimmick to attract the vacationers who thronged to Penticton and Kelowna on Lake Okanagan, the Towns boosters embraced the American Southwest motif. Red roof tiles tacked onto facades painted in earth-tones, imitation adobe arches inserted into the gaps between storefronts, a little old-world wrought iron work, a few unglazed clay pots filled with begonias and pansies strive to suggest New Mexico, Arizona, or perhaps Portugals Azores Islands, whence a sizeable portion of the Towns population hails. The ploy works; tourists stop, booking the Towns thousand-and-one motels nearly solid during the summer, choking the main streets with cars hauling boats and kids to the beach, cruisin for shakes n burgers, searching out that last unreserved family suite.
Okay; there are not yet 1001 motels in Osoyoos, but there are plenty. Many are on the Highway; standard two-decker cindercrete block boxes with exterior stairways, sizzling neon signs cutting hard-edged shadows in the summer evening, chlorinated pools closed at 10:00 p.m. and, come the summer sellers market, credit card melting prices. Off the main drag, strung along the south-eastern beach front, are Osoyooss real jewels of accommodation. In high season, however, the wise traveller books ahead.
Since March 27th, 1995, there are no hotels in Osoyoos. On that evening the grand Rialto, which had held the intersection at the bottom of Main Street since 1939, burned to a pit full of charred rubble. Its beverage room was missed most of all and was quickly replaced by a wannabe cantina that hammers the night air with music loud enough to make a passing strollers diaphragm vibrate.
For the tenter, the choices are many. Jutting from the Lakes western shore some two kilometres south of Town, Haynes Point Provincial Park offers 41 showerless camp sites. Most of the private campgrounds are on the shore opposite Haynes Point, nestled under the canopies of retired orchards along Lakeshore Drive, the oldest road in B.C.
The Brigade Trail
In the narrows below the little 1950 bridge that carries the Highway across the Lake in the centre of Osoyoos, the waters flow sluggishly south carrying the effluent from the upper Okanagan down past Haynes Point and over the Boundary into the United States a mile or two beyond. Cautious power boats and jet-skis slow to a putt to negotiate the channel, respectful of the submerged rows of ancient bridge pilings arcing the Narrows to the south, then roar away looking for fun, leaving the Canada Geese and coots to bob and rock in the bulrushes along the shore.
The Bridge emphasises the geographical feature upon which Osoyoos is founded; the two spits which nearly cut the Lake in half. In their tongue, a link in a dialect chain which connects down the Columbia River with Coast Salish language, the Okanagan People called this place soi-yoos, which has been variously translated as gathered together and land between two waters. Here the Band clans congregated at the summer solstice and built lodges, dividing themselves into four work parties to prepare winter stores. While one party of men netted salmon that ran through the Narrows, one party of women dried the catch. The other women scoured the ravines for berries as the non-fishing men hunted. That the Indians enjoyed long tenure at this spot is evinced by the numerous graves discovered here about as Osoyoos was excavating its basements and laying its infrastructure. Like their western neighbours in the Similkameen, the Okanagans of soi-yoos traded with coast peoples, exchanging hemp fishing net twine and jasper spear points for precious dentalia shells. The grave of one spectacularly wealthy individual contained, according to Geo. J. Fraser in his self-published The Story of Osoyoos : September 1811 to December 1952, several hundred shells of uniform length on the average of one and one half inches.
David Stuart is credited with being the European discoverer of the ford in the Narrows, the Traverse. From Fort Astoria, the Pacific Fur Companys newly established headquarters at the mouth of the Columbia River, Stuart and his men paddled up that River to its confluence with the Okanagan in the late summer of 1811. There establishing Fort Okanagan and leaving Alexander Ross to trade, Stuart and one Montigny headed north up the left bank of the Okanagan River on September the 16th. They may have crossed at soi-yoos as they made their way up-country to the Thompson River region to press home their companys intention of challenging the North West Company for the furs of New Caledonia and the upper Columbia. All winter Stuart and Montigny negotiated trade deals with the Shuswaps and their neighbours, returning to Fort Okanagan on March 22 of 1812. A few weeks later Ross led a trading party of sixteen pack horses along Stuarts route to Cumcloups. Stuarts Okanagan track was soon an established trail.
On October 16th, 1813, anticipating the arrival of H.M.S. Racoon bringing the War of 1812 to the West Coast, the PFC men at Fort Astoria sold their outfits western assets to a North West Company expedition led by J.G. McTavish. Negotiations to seal the deal, reports John C. Jackson, author of The Piikani Blackfeet: A Culture Under Siege (Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, 2000), had begun years earlier. Most of them being ex-NorWesters, the Astorians knew McTavish, and the majority opted to rejoin their old company. Though employed by the expanded NWC as a shortcut between the posts in New Caledonia and on the lower Columbia, the Okanagan track seems to have faded in importance for a few years. However, as a result of the Coalition, or the Deed Poll, of March 26th, 1821, NWC operations and personnel were blended into the HBC and the new Coy, determined to establish a reliable north-south connection between New Caledonia and the Columbia, sent Tom McKay to reopen Stuarts pathway in 1824. This became the Brigade Trail. Coming up the left bank of the Okanagan, it crossed to the right side of the Valley sometimes at the Traverse, sometimes at boggy fords just south and north of Lake Osoyoos, and wandered across the future site of Fairview and through the Marron Valley before continuing north up the west bank of Okanagan Lake and on to Kamloops. Eventually the Coy extended the Trail to Fort Alexandra on the upper Fraser and built up a substantial herd of pack horses to carry supplies thither in the autumn and bring out the winters accumulation of furs in the following spring. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 deprived the HBC of territory below the 49th degree of latitude North, putting paid to the Trail, and requiring the Coy to employ A.C. Andersons talents in finding a route to Kamloops from the Fraser.
The establishment of the Boundary and the suspension of the annual HBC brigades through the Okanagan did not much effect the traffic on the old Trail. Native peoples continued to use it, missionaries, settlers, cattle drovers and, of course, thousands of gold seekers rushing into the Interior trod the Trail. Though that branch of the Trail which came up the western side of Osoyoos Lake gained predominance when it was built into a waggon road in the 1890s, the original branch on the east side continued in use until the interests of internal security demanded it be fenced of during the Prohibition years in the U.S., turning it eventually into Osoyooss Lakeshore Drive.
J.C. Haynes and the Customs House
Writes Dorothy Fraser in her A Short History and Description of Osoyoos, in 1862 over 1,000 white men trekked the Trail northwards, heading to Williams Creek in the gold-rich Cariboo region. It was these fortune seekers and the ones that preceded them that sowed the seed from which Osoyoos grew.
Osoyoos was just pretty pasturage when Edgar Dewdney, Walter Moberly and their trail crew arrived in the Okanagan in early 1861. It is by no means clear where they first ran their Trail. Very likely they came down out of the Richter some distance north of where No.3 now lies, and worked their way across soggy Haynes Meadows to cross the Okanagan River at the north end of Osoyoos Lake. Because land at either end of the Lake was marshy and passable only with difficulty, William George Cox, the Customs Officer and Gold Commissioner at Rock Creek, soon contracted John Utz and Ben McDonald of the U.S. Armys Fort Colville to build a rudimentary bridge at the Traverse.
The reason Governor James Douglas had Dewdney build his Trail was to ease communication between the Colonial capital at New Westminster and the customs house which Douglas instructed Cox to establish at the Rock Creek gold camp in September of 1860. Rock Creek, however, was on the other side of the Okanagan Highlands, miles from the old Brigade Trail, so the House was easily avoided by those who chose not to go far out of their way to pay the Colonys import and export duties. Appreciating this, Douglas authorised Cox to build an outpost near the Boundary in the Similkameen valley in hopes that travellers would report to one House or the other. In October of 1860 John Carmichael Haynes arrived to assist Cox, and by November the former was in charge of the Similkameen outpost.
Cox and Haynes were well acquainted. Among the first to be hired by the Colonial administration, in 1859 the pair helped resolve Ned McGowans War, a minor dispute at Yale between the authorities and the miners, before being assigned the unpopular task of collecting mining fees from those engaged in the occupation between Forts Hope and Yale.
By April of 1861, Cox had registered land pre-emptions in the Okanagan valley for himself and Haynes with the intention of growing crops to supply Rock Creek with fresh vegetables. By that time, however, the miners were rushing away to better prospects, and realizing that the Creek would soon be deserted, Cox obtained permission to build a customs house near soi-yoos to better monitor movement along the old Brigade Trail. The site Cox chose was on a hillside overlooking the ford at the top of Osoyoos Lake, near the present Osoyoos Cemetery. There, reports Geo. J. Fraser, by December of 1861 a log building 20 by 30 feet had been erected at a cost of £114. Early the next year, the Governor ordered Cox to lay out a ten square mile governmental reserve around the new post, as well as a twenty square mile reserve for the Okanagan People.
On March 11th of 1862 Cox was transferred to the Cariboo and Haynes was promoted to Customs Officer and Gold Commissioner for the Okanagan area. Hiring constable W.C. Young and leaving him to keep watch at the Similkameen outpost during the mining season, Haynes took up residence at the new post. On April 1st he welcomed W.H. Lowe who, after nearly three years as constable and Collector of Customs at Hope, had been posted to Osoyoos as Haynes assistant. Snooping through the kits of the departing prospectors looking for gold to tax, and assessing the colonial ad valorum import duty on the herds of sheep, horses, mules and cattle being driven north to the Cariboo gold camps by the likes of General Joel Palmer, the Harper brothers, and Snipes and Murphy, Haynes and Cox became the first permanent White residents in the Osoyoos region.
The old Brigade Trail remained a popular choice for miners going to and from the Cariboo country, but activity there had slowed. With the Rock Creek office closed after Coxs departure and his staff halved, Hayness work, writes H.E. White in her monograph on her father, John Carmichael Haynes (British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Volume IV, 1940), cannot have been onerous . To make use of his time, Haynes patrolled the trails, impressed a bit of colonial authority upon the Natives and visited his closest White neighbour, Hiram F. Okanagan Smith, who lived across the Line at the south end of the Lake where he ranched, operated a ferry across the River and tended his orchardthe first on the shores of Lake Osoyoos.
In a letter to Governor Seymour at New Westminster dated June 23, 1864, Haynes reported that he had been visited that very day by the retiring factor of the HBC post on Tobacco Plains, John Linklater, who showed him some gold that he said had been panned from a creek in the Upper Kootenay River valley in the far south-eastern corner of the Colony. Further, Linklater said that when he quit the Plains on June 15th, that distant neighbourhood was rapidly filling up with the worst kind of rabble from the Idaho region of Washington Territory. Their intent, worried Linklater, was to strip the bullion from the Kootenays creeks and carry it away into the U.S.A.
Even though the East Kootenay was the remotest corner of the Colony, Seymour had to move to protect Britains sovereignty; and move fast. He appointed Haynes as Stipendiary Magistrate and Justice of the Peace for the Osoyoos and Kootenay Districts and had the Legislative Councils secretary, Arthur N. Birch, post him to Wild Horse as Gold Commissioner and Customs Officer on July 9th of 1864. On the 20th, Haynes left Osoyoos post in charge of constable W.H. Lowe and, in company with constable Young, travelled via Fort Colvile and Spokane, reaching his destination, Wild Horse, in mid-August.
The Founding of Osoyoos
Haynes was posted back to his home at Osoyoos in the spring of 1865. Judging that the Customs House had been poorly placed, he had it dragged from its location at the head of the Lake to a site on the rise of land just west of the Traverse. From there, Haynes figured, he could better keep his eye on the trails on both sides of the Lake, as well as the Dewdney, which now crossed at the Narrrows. The House, with new roof, additions for the officers residence and a gaol, was fit for habitation by September. It was the first building on what is now the townsite of Osoyoos.
The second building was an HBC post. Since he had moved from Rock Creek to his little ranch at the south end of the lake in the early 1860s, Okanagan Smith had continued his drygoods and hardware business as a sideline. The HBC, resentful of Smiths small enterprise in its territory, sent Roderick Finlayson to raise a store in competition in 1866. Finlayson of course built near the Osoyoos customs house and had only just got the post built when T.J. Kruger, late of Blackfoot near Princes Town (now Princeton), arrived to take over. An industrious entrepreneur, Theodore Kruger saw an opportunity to augment his Coy stipend soon after his arrival when the Traverse bridge washed out. He built a new bridge and required travellers to pay a hefty toll for the convenience of crossing the Narrows dry-footed.
Kruger didnt make a lot from his Bridge. Lack of reward had cured all but the worst of cases of gold fever and emptied the countryside of paying customers. Serving only the occasional wanderer and the Hope-based mail carrier, James Wardle, long stretches of both Dewdneys and the Brigade Trail reverted to nature. Osoyoosits leading vowel prefixed to better serve the English tongueremained little more than a bridge at a little used cross-roads overseen by the Customs House and a store.
On September 26th, 1868, Charlotte Moresby married J.C. Haynes in Hope and came to Osoyoos. Now with plans for a sedentary future, on August 1st of the next year Haynes registered a pre-emption at the north end of the Lake, possibly on lands that he had trimmed from the Okanagan Bands reserve in July of 1865. Together with Lowe, who had pre-empted Valley lands two years earlier, Haynes began putting together a cattle business. They bought foot-sore animals from drovers at a low price, as well as fit animals which the drovers sold to pay the $1.00 per head import duties on the rest of their herds. Because he was frequently away from the Valley on official business, Haynes, a Circuit Judge since 1866, left much of the actual ranching to Lowe and Charlotte, until she died in May of 1872 from complications following the birth of their son, Fairfax Moresby, the previous February. Lowe left the district that year and Haynes hired R.L Cawston to run the ranch. In January of 1875 Emily Pittenreigh came to Osoyoos as the Judges second wife.
In 1872, having sold Ruperts Land to Canada and watched B.C. and Manitoba join the new Confederation, the HBC, re-assessing its interest in southern Canada, sold its Osoyoos store to Barrington Price. A year later, after two years in Kamloops as a Coy clerk, Kruger quit the HBC, married, returned to Osoyoos and bought out Price. To irrigate his garden, T.J. built a couple of wind-powered pumps to draw water from the Lake. They were a landmark for years.
When the Customs House burned in 1877, the Judge had a new one built closer to the Narrows and the next year completed a palatial new residence for his family on the Lakes eastern shore. Designed by the Hayneses themselves and built from rot-resistant tamarack logs which were rafted down from the Kelowna area, the house still stands secluded in a little woods off Lakeshore Drive near the mouth of Haynes Creek. It was this mansion that the Commander of the U.S. Army, General W.T. Sherman of the March to the Sea notoriety, visited in August of 1883 when he was touring his countrys Northwest.
Cattle, the Krugers, Irrigation and the Fruit Industry
Once most of the Timber wolves and Grizzly bears had been poisoned, trapped and shot out of existence, the hardy long-horned cattle flourished on the nutritious bunch-grass blanketing the Haynes-Lowe ranch. Though Lowe had left Osoyoos in 1872 to marry Ella Simpson and take a post in the Customs House at New Westminster a year later, he maintained his partnership with Haynes. When her husband died at Keremeos in January of 1882, Mrs. Lowe kept an interest in the operation until she and R.L. Cawston bought the Richters Similkameen ranch in 1884. The Judge assumed the entire ownership of his Okanagan operation and, though modifications to the Land Ordinance act had raised the rental rate of an acre of Okanagan pasture land to six cents per year or a dollar to purchase outright, at the moment of his untimely death on July 6th, 1888, J.C. owned or leased 22,000 acres. Although Emily Haynes and her young family struggled to hold onto the property, the Judge had taken out a $65,000 mortgage on the ranch to pay out Mrs. Lowe, and a period of low cattle prices in the years following his death caused Emily to default on the payments in 1895. Her neighbour, Tom Ellis, bought the mortgage that September 12th and quickly forced the sale of the property, equipment and livestock. That bit of reprobation increased the Ellis holdings to some 35,000 acres, nearly the entire Valley bottomlands from the Boundary to well above Penticton.
The Krugers had built and moved into a substantial house near their store in 1887, and the year after Haynes died, T.J. was appointed Customs Officer. When a Mr. Stanton of Oroville inaugurated a stage service between that place and Penticton in 1892, the Post Office designated the Krugers store a postal station and appointed old T.J. the post master.
The denizens of the Osoyoos Arid Biotic Zone live on an annual stipend of but 20 centimetres of precipitation. However, supported by its gravelly subsoil, the light, sandy loam is fertile and, watered, produces prolifically. This the Judge and the Krugers discovered, and their gardens and occasional fruit tree flourished. Wrote Mario Lanthier and Lloyd L. Wong in the chapter The Early British Settlers: 1860s - 1920s of their Ethnic Agricultural Labour in the Okanagan Valley: 1880s to 1960s on Living Landscapes1,the first farmers to export fruit from the Okanagan were the Gartrell brothers, Jas. and Fred., who with commercial intentions established an irrigated orchard at what is now Peachland on the western side of the Lake in the late 80s. Ten years later they were waggoning loads of apples and garden vegetables to the miners in the neighbouring camps: Fairview, McKinney, Hedley and Greenwood.
The Gartrells success inspired others. John Moore Robinson bought a ranch by the Gartrells that he named Peachland, planted soft-fruit trees such as peaches, plums and apricots, and began selling fruit ranches. At the upper end of the Lake, in the autumn of 1891 the Governor-general of Canada, Lord Aberdeen, bought the Vernon brothers ranch. He set it to fruit, his investment drawing the and mimickd Robinson. By the mid-19aughts most of Okanagan Lakes shore was dedicated to orchards.
In early 1905 a young English mining engineer casting around Western Canada for his fortune passed through Osoyoos. The regions potential for irrigated orchardry impressed Leslie C. Hill, and he forthwith bought an option from Tom Ellis for the latters entire holdings. That Ellis was engaged in discussions with the Shatford brothers, Lytton Wilmot and Walter Tyrrel, at the time didnt prevent him from accepting Hills down payment and seeing him away to England to raise the remainder of the money. By the time Hill returned in 1907, of course, the Shatfords had concluded their deal with Ellis. Disappointed at missing out, Hill appeared on Elliss Penticton doorstep expecting to retrieve his down payment, but instead came away with the deed to about 1,150 acres on the south-east side of Lake Osoyoos. He irrigated 30 or 40 acres on the Haynes Creek delta near the Haynes mansion and planted peach, cherry, apple, pear and plum trees. After a few years the trees yielded enough fruit to be packed and sent to the mining towns farther east, first by horse-back along Dewdneys Trail, then 50 kilometres up to Penticton by waggon when the KVR reached there in October of 1914. The orchard was a real show place, but had not reached profitability by the time World War One cut off Hills English line of credit. Hill died in 1916 and neglect quickly ruined his orchard, but his successes had been noted.
Come the end of W.W.I Osoyoos was still barely a settlement. T.J. Kruger had died in 1899 and his family closed their store and sold their holdings to F.X. Richter. One of the Richter boys occupied the Kruger house and maintained the garden. There was a log-built provincial government building dating from 1892 which, since the offices had been moved to Fairview in 1898, had been only periodically occupied. Nearby, dating from the same era, stood a new Customs House. Among the 18 residents of Osoyoos there were not enough school age children to oblige the Department of Education to hire a teacher until, in 1917, students were conscripted from the surrounding region and classes convened in the jail house annexe of the old government office.
In 1919, with the provinces Southern Okanagan Land Project fairly under way, local land owner G.J. Fraser and some associates formed the Osoyoos Orchards Limited to pay Hills estate $50,000 for its land. They had it subdivided and sold lots to any Caucasian who figured he was capable of assuming the debt and carrying on the back-breaking labour required to bring the land to fruition. On the Lakes western shores, the SOLP bought Southern Okanagan Land Companys holdings in 1920 for ex-soldier resettlement. Initially, as on the Osoyoos Orchards property, water was pumped up out of the Lake at considerable expense, but when the SOLPs Ditch arrived in 1927, orchard lands sold rapidly and Osoyoos was set to grow into a regional distribution node.
The problem was that most of the land around the bridge was government property dating back to 1866 when Haynes had moved the Customs House thither. People like R.D. Fraser, who raised a store on the government reserve in 1920, were deemed squatters and enjoyed their tenure only at the pleasure of the Crown. Naturally, the inability to buy land discouraged construction. The Osoyoos Board of Trade organized itself on March 4th of 1930 and lobbied the SOLP to lay out a townsite on its property around the new school that the community had built in 1932. The Project finally did so, formally establishing Osoyoos and offering the first lots for sale on November 21st, 1937.
Making use of the electricity that West Kootenay Power and Light had brought to the area with its old 63 kV line No.43 in 1936, the Jorde brothers established their sawmill on the east side of the Traverse to supply builders with lumber. A small grist mill was completed in 1938, the McNaughton Canning Company, Limited, set up its operation, a church or two were raised. By the time Mr. Samol completed his Rialto Hotel in 1939, Osoyoos was well rooted on the lots bordering what is now Main Street.
Racism in the Valley
A visitor strolling down that dusty main street in 1939 would never see a First Nations person even though hundreds lived on the far shores of the Lake. Natives in B.C. had always been discouraged from spending much time in settlements not their own, and the residents of Osoyoos expected the Okanagan people to observe the tradition. But for the land owners around here, a more worrisome threat were Orientals. Report Mario Lanthier and Lloyd L. Wong in The Chinese: Early 1900s - 1930s of their Ethnic Agricultural Labour in the Okanagan Valley: 1880s to 1960s, there were almost 2,000 Chinese living on upper Okanagan Lake, and every camp and settlement in the region had at least half a dozen, cooking commercially, operating laundries, working in the fields, living in close association in Chinatown. They imported strange items from their homeland, spoke incomprehensible languages chicken-scratched in undecipherable symbols, wore their hair in long queues or pig-tails, and kept to themselves, dreaming of their loved ones so far away. They were incredibly tough, many hired to lug water day after long day to the saplings in the new orchards. And they valued their labour cheaply. Fear and ignorance, however, barred often them from packinghouses and canneries.
Back in May of 1913, Okanagan orchardists had organized themselves into the Okanagan United Growers Limited with the aim of maintaining an acceptable standard of living while ousting established Ontario and Washington-based producers from the burgeoning Prairie apple market. Thanks mainly to federal trade tariffs excluding American fruit, by 1922 B.C. had captured 82% of its objective. That year, however, a bumper crop destroyed prices and the OUG and many of its members went broke. The reincarnation of the OUG, the Associated Growers of British Columbia Limited, arose the next spring and, after years of petitions and politicking, managed to convince the province in 1927 to legislate a minimum price for which producers could sell their fruit. This legislation reflected a problem that had long vexed the Okanagan fruit growers.
The Problem was that the OUG and its successor were run by Whites for Whites. At its convention in 1918 the B.C. Fruit Growers Association had OKd the use of Oriental labour, but sure didnt want any of those Independents, buying land and settling. Eager competitors, willing to work well beyond the mandated eight-hour day and accept a humbler standard of living, the Chinese and other East Asians persistently under-mined the OUGs price structure in an effort to make a living. At its convention in Nelson in January of 1921, the B.C. Fruitgrowers Association demanded that the Orientals ability to compete be legally impaired. The province reflected the mood of the White voters by enacting several regulations barring Orientals from buying Crown lands or working on a public projects, and from practicing certain trades and professions. The Oriental Problem was foremost the minds of the land owners meeting in the old schoolhouse in Osoyoos in March of 1921. There the fact that Chinese and Japanese could out-compete the Whites was candidly recognized and the success of the Orientals who had established themselves in the north end of the Okanagan was decried as a danger that had to be addressed. Addressed it was. Endorsed by the B.C. Fruitgrowers Association, a resolution detailing the congregations fearful bigotry was drawn up and passed unanimously; the gist: no land for Asians. At Osoyoos and Oliver, vigilance committees associated with the Oliver Co-operative Growers Exchange were set up to ensure that no Orientals settled in the southern Valley. Even the Japanese internees who were conscripted to extend the railway south to Osoyoos during W.W.II were restricted to CPR property lest they somehow pollute the environs. Noting with evident satisfaction in The Story of Osoyoos, Geo. J. Fraser claims that to the time of his writing in 1952, only one Oriental had attempted to establish himself in the district, and was quickly intimidated into moving on.
Unhappily, at the same time as racism was driving workers away, the orchards were going untended for want of workers. In October of 1955 the situation became an emergency. Wrote Mario Lanthier and Lloyd L. Wong in the chapter The Portuguese: 1955 - 1960s of their afore-mentioned Ethnic Agricultural Labour in the Okanagan Valley: 1880s to 1960s, so desperate was the need for pickers that the students at South Okanagan Junior-Senior High were required to report to the orchards to harvest a rapidly ripening bumper crop of apples, and the Osoyoos Co-op Packinghouse to suspend operations to send workers out to help. At their convention two years later, the B.C. Fruit Growers Association resolved to ask Ottawa to import itinerant field labour from Mexico or the Philippines. The idea of Mexicans, particularly, prowling around in their orchards did not sit well with some Growers in the valley, however, some newly-arrived Portuguese immigrants had been sent out to help with the 1955 harvest. Some had stayed and had found wide acceptance in the neighbourhood. More Portuguese arrived, primarily from the economically stagnant Azores, worked for years and then began buying land. The Times changed. Blunted is the intolerance brought to the Valley by its original British pioneers. Indeed; a visitor today travelling the 3A will doubtless notice that orchardry is no longer an exclusive privilege of the Caucasian race. Everywhere are Sikhs sarid or beturband and other East Indians hard at work to heap produce on Canadas tables.
The KVR and the Incorporation of Osoyoos
While waiting for their fruit trees to mature, between the rows orchardists grew tobacco and vine crops for ready cashHearts of Gold cantaloupes, tomatoes, cucumbers, and huge zucca melons for the candied fruit trade. But the lack of rail transport to move these delicate fruits quickly and gently to market crippled incomes around Osoyoos. Local hearts had been set aflutter in the early 19-aughts when J.J. Hill mused that he might run some Great Northern trackage up the Valley from Oroville. Nothing ever came of that idea, and when the KVR ran out its extension south from Okanagan Falls in 1923, it thought it only worthwhile to build as far as Haynes, leaving farmers at Osoyoos to face a fruit-bruising ten mile long haul to the railhead. Beyond the end of the track, Osoyoos remained the Valleys bucolic backwater, a circumstance ideally suited to the shady entrepreneurs who kept Americas thirst slaked during the sobering days of prohibition.
The preponderance of Osoyooss fruit trees came into production just in time to face a market destroyed by the Depression. Nonetheless, in 1932, the Osoyoos Co-Operative Fruit and Vegetable Growers organized itself with G.J. Fraser as its president. At the bottom of what would become Main Street, the Co-op built a wood-framed packinghouse to sort produce and box the best for its journey to market.
The 1940s brought the second Great War to the world and money to the Okanagan. A federal war measures act created Tree Fruits Limited and charged it with delivering fresh Okanagan produce to the hundreds of thousands of factory workers and combatants hard at work for Canada. Hampered by a lack of rail transport in the southern Okanagan, Tree Fruits roused CP to conscript interned Japanese labour and spend the $300,000 it took to push its rails nine and a half miles down from Haynes to Osoyoos. On Friday, December 29th, 1944, to the blare of the Oliver High Schools brass band, G.J. Fraser, still president of the local co-op, hammered home the last spike, mayor Robert J. McDougall of Penticton commenting that Osoyoos is no longer a cow corral: the whistle of the train bids farewell to the cowboy and the miner. These few miles were the last new trackage ever added to the KVR system, and in their honour the entire 36 mile long stretch from the Yards in South Penticton was renamed the Osoyoos Subdivision.
So inspired were the 3,000-odd citizens of Osoyoos to see their settlements name on the CPRs map that they declared their community a Village on January 14th, 1946. With the long discussed Crowsnest Highway about to open, optimism waxed despite the loss of the Jorde Brothers sawmill in a spectacular blaze on June 3rd of that same year. The Co-op rebuilt their packinghouse in concrete, and beside it on First Avenue, a second co-op, the Monashee Co-Operative Growers, built its packinghouse. Reflecting the importance of the Crowsnest Highway and the No.97, a new border post was built in 1948 and Osoyoos was raised in status from an outport to a port of entry. That July 1st, the Village held its first Cherry Festival.
Osoyoos enjoyed the rumble of trains for only 33 years. Having lost most of its traffic to the refrigerated trucks whose trip to Vancouver was significantly shortened by the opening of the Richter Pass portion of the Highway in 1965, by 1970 CP could rarely justify the expense of running a train into Osoyoos. The last train ever to be seen in the community was the British Columbia Provincial Museums Museum Train, hooted into the Yards in July of 1977 by old 3716, a 2-8-0 Consolidation. The next year the CPR abandoned the sub. south of Okanagan Falls. Bought by the Lake Osoyoos Sailing Club, the old station was dragged a few yards further onto the beach, refurbished and, though burdened with the requisite nautical paraphernalia, proudly proclaims its genesis. Smothered under condos and tennis courts, the old Yards have disappeared and the right-of-way converted into a walking/biking trail as far as the old wye just west of the station, beyond which it has been pressed into service as an access road for a pastel subdivision of California-style bungalows.
A Town since June 30th, 1983, Osoyoos boasts that it has The Best Small Town Museum in Canada. Located in the old curling rink on the beach downtown, its feature presentation is its accumulation of B.C. Provincial Police artefacts, a force which evolved from the colonial constabulary and was absorbed by the RCMP on August 15th, 1950.
There is not much else of historical interest to see in Osoyoos. The Kruger house and their old store, the ex-HBC post, burned down sometime during the 1920s. The saw mill, after the spectacular fire of 1946, moved out to deeper water at the northern end of the Lake and has since disappeared. Most buildings on Main date from the 1940s and 1950s, are wood-framed and, notwithstanding the recent application of New Mexican decoration, were never meant to be more than functional shelters. The big old packinghouses, as attractive as bomb shelters, are in the year 2002 being salvaged, the timber of their framing by far exceeding their value produce handling depôts.
Relaxing in a rented punt rocking on the gentle evening swells of Lake Osoyoos, the warmest waters in Canada, a cyclist can contemplate Anarchist Mountain, a hoplite in the phalanx of the Valleys eastern wall. In the gloaming, twinkling car lights trace the Highways switch-backed course to and fro as it searches for the easiest path up out of the Valley. Its a stiff climb on a loaded touring bike, and way up there, where the pin-pricks of red tail lights finally blink from view into a hanging arroyo, is not the summit; it marks barely half the elevation gain and a quarter the distance to the top of the Anarchist Pass.
Having inherited the old colonial compulsion to seal the Boundary with a road, in the early 1920s the provincial Department of Public Works engaged Major Angus Davis to build a road between Osoyoos and Rock Creek. Where Dewdney might have eased his Trail into American territory for a few miles to escape steep grades, contemporary nationalism demanded an all Canadian alignment; Davis had to hack his road over the Anarchist. Though widened and somewhat straightened in the late 1950s, the road is still rumoured to include the longest continuous hill in Canada12 kilometres of seven and eight percent grades. Cyclists are advised to load up on liquid and start out well before Apollo lunges from behind the Mountain to burn all shade out of the valley.
From the Bridge across the Narrows, the Highway begins to climb onto the Okanagan Highlands, defenders of the Interior Plateaus eastern marches. Up out of town, up past the last orchard and the road to the Okanagan tribes Nkmip Campground, the slopes fall away to the Lake, the morning air still damp and redolent with sage. When the sun finally peeks into the valley, its rays are already hot; it will be another ear-frying day for cyclists. In the escarpments arroyos, home to the norther-most population of Yellow-bellied marmots, the wind tortured Western Yellow pines creep down towards the Lake from the high ground. A Red Shafted Flicker, the underneath of its tail feathers fluorescing orange in an early sun ray, prises breakfast from a tree trunk.
From Anarchist Lookout (450m), only about six kilometres from town, visitors can survey the Valley one last time. At eye level Bank Swallows flip and wheel, nabbing brunch on the fly from the now stirring air. To the north, past the blackened scar left by the burn of 2003 on the Anarchists face, the Valleys features evanesce into the geophilic ozone somewhere above Oliver. On Lake Osoyooss eastern bank, north of the Town, the Okanagan People like to keep their land pretty much in its original state, in dusty stark contrast to the surrounding manicured greenery. A vest pocket desert it has been called, an extension of the wastes of northern Mexico but, because of latitude, akin to the upper elevations of the Mexican desert. Sweeping southward, the verdure of the valley floor swashes up the slopes and stops at lines so straight the green looks painted on the Deserts backdrop of patinad verdigris-blues and shades of beige. Above the water line, the sun burned scrub bides its time, awaiting Irrigations failure. Below, in a line running due west to Mount Kruger, the orchards end smack at the 49th degree of parallel, underscoring difference between what is marginal farm land in the United States and prime real estate in Canada. Without the precious natural reservoir of Osoyoos Lake, of course, the desert could never have been banished from the Valleys bottom, but though the Lakes declining volume and intensifying pollution distress local residents, they are loathe to endanger their economy by curtailing either irrigation or water sports.
The view from Anarchist proves that this region is not completely dedicated to tourism and creeping urbanity; orchardry still underpins the economy. Exotic fruits, like kiwis, Chinese pears and, yes, under glass somewhere down there, bananas, are recently established and compete for growing space with the traditional Valley fruits. The industry has come a long way since Father Pandosy began to experiment with apples at the Okanagan Mission in 1863. It is the viniculture, however, that promises future rewards for the Okanagans farmers. The tailoring of vine types to specific soils has resulted in some excellent vintages and experimentation in production has yielded the sugary ice wine made from grapes picked frozen in the Valleys winter snows.
Straight across the Valley from the Anarchist Lookout, on the lower slopes of Mount Kruger directly above Haynes Point, are the scars of the Lakeview-Dividend mine workings. Back around 1898 J.C. Fisher found the contact plane between the native limestone and an intrusion of igneous diorite. Figuring there might be worthwhile mineral deposits, Fisher staked the Dividend, leaving it to George Nadin to open three years later. By that time the side of Kruger was a patchwork of claims, one of the most promising being the Gold Dust group.
The development of the Kruger Mountain claims was beyond Nadins abilities or resources, and they were picked at only sporadically during the early 19-aughts. Nadin found, however, enough of interest that the Dividend-Lakeview Consolidated Gold Mining Company, Limited, was constituted. In 1908 the great Granby Consolidated Mining, Smelting and Power Company bonded the Dividend and did a little exploration. Like the London-based Dominion Fairview Copper Company which had bought up and examined the nearby Waneta, Favourite and Waterdown Fraction in 1907, Granby concluded that the Kruger Mountain ore body was marginal, leaving Dividend-Lakeview Consolidated to pick at the Dividend and the adjacent Lakeview. In 1912 D-LC set up air-operated machine drills and managed to auto-truck ten car loads of ore six miles from the Mines dump to the Washington and Great Northern at Oroville for dispatch to Granbys Grand Forks smelter. For its trouble, the company got a bit over $17 per ton for the gold in the ore, and the next year, mostly from the Dividend, another eight car loads averaged $24.34 to the ton.
Though Dividend-Lakeview Consolidated continued to hold and even expand its Kruger Mountain property, it did little work, allowing the shafts to cave. In 1930 the company leased the Dividend-Lakeview-Gypsy Fraction group for seven years to W.B. Reilly of Oroville and his partners. They salvaged a ten stamp mill from Fairview and erected half of it at the Dividends dump from which they milled enough ore to make up two car loads which they sent to American Smelting and Refining in Tacoma. In Calgary in 1931, Canadian Prime Minister R.B. Bennett, J.O Howells and several other Calgarians organized the Northern Syndicate, Limited, to get into the mining business as the American government prepared to increase the price of gold by 75%. By 1933 the principals had formed Osoyoos Mines of Canada, Limited, from the Syndicate and had acquired a slough of claims on Kruger centred on the Lakeview, the Dividend and the Little Manx. Concentrating its efforts upon these three, Osoyoos Mines had set up two ball mills to assist the stamp mill, a cyanide plant capable of treating 200 tons of concentrate per day, a little floatation plant and a classifier. Until the West Kootenay Power and Light Company strung its 60,000 volt line to Osoyoos and the mines in 1936, most of the equipment stood idle and with ore to crush in 1935, Osoyoos Mines had to rely on the mill facilities at the Morning Star (Fairview) Gold Mines, Limited, at Fairview. Expanding its Kruger explorations for a few months in 1935, Osoyoos bonded the neighbouring Osoyoos-Hecla group owned by D.P. Simpson. Finally, on its Kruger Mountain property, in 1938 Osoyoos Mines poured its first brick of bullion; 29 pounds of pure gold. It was the acme of the Dividend-Lakeviews career. On March 31st, 1940, unable to locate more ore, Osoyoos Mines ceased operations and mining ended on the Mountain.
Away from the Anarchist Lookout, the Highway continues its climb offering the enquiring cyclist time to ponder the view. Down slope one can scan the tops of the Ponderosa pines for Yellow-pine chipmunks and their big, colourful cousins, Tamias ruficaudas, both at the northern tip of their ranges here. Where the spindly pines and moss draped poplars emerge from the arroyos to colonise the heights, the road levels out onto the Mountains shoulder into which the gravel pit of Osoyoos Aggregates gnaws. Beyond is the rolling plateau of Little Helvetica. Crosses white on red decorate the gate posts of many a drive leading off to holiday ranches where Swiss cowpokes can live their fantasies far from their Autobahnen and Bürohausen. At one ranch, the Wagon Wheel, a once-in-a-while café called Angels might be open to serve freshly pressed kaffee and oven-hot kirschekuchen. Onward, the Highway edges along the northern lip of a lovely, grassy valley. In the dales, forest trees have been cleared for hay fields in which placid Swiss Browns ruminate in the sun. Weathered-black barns of raw lumber and metal roofed houses huddle in the hollows, hiding from Winters blasts. The carved letters on a rustic arch proclaim the Sidley Ranch. After years of wandering the placer creeks of B.C., R.G. Sidley settled here in 1889 and eventually increased his spread to 2,000 acres in B.C., and some adjacent leased Indian Reserve land in Washington. Besides running cattle, Sidley experimented with different types of cereals, trying to find varieties suited to the trying climate. The province made him a sometime Justice of the Peace and the Federal government named him regional Post Master at the turn of the twentieth century. Depending on who tells the story, Sidley either named Anarchist Mountain for the relaxed attitude to the Law that some of the early settlers hereabouts held, or the Mountain was named by someone else for the JPs own political philosophy which eventually got him dismissed from his job. The Sidley Post Office closed on September 30th, 1913.
Eight kilometres from Angels the Highway finally crests Anarchist Summit at 1233 metres and begins its descent into the Kettle River valley. Roadside signs welcome travellers to the Boundary District.
Next: ROCK CREEK