The Laird of Fintry

July 31, 2021

 

For July and August, the Vernon Museum will share a series of articles that explore some of the many heritage sites around the North Okanagan. To plan a visit to any of the sites featured, please visit https://vernonmuseum.ca/explore/heritage-field-trips/.

 

An Award Winning Product

In March of 2020, Vernon’s Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery received a gold medal for their Laird of Fintry Single-Malt Whisky at the World Spirit Awards in Austria. The celebrated distillery releases this product only once a year through a lottery process.

Although the whisky itself is obviously in high demand, the story behind its unique name is less well-known: who was the Laird of Fintry?

Captain Dun-Waters

He was James Cameron Dun-Waters.

Dun-Waters was raised in Scotland, and at the age of 22, inherited a significant amount of money. This fortune brought him to Canada to pursue his interest in hunting.

In 1909, he was exploring a delta along the west side of Okanagan Lake known as Shorts’ Point when he decided this was where he wanted to settle. A year later, he had purchased the land and renamed it “Fintry” after his hometown in Scotland. Here he remained for 31 years.

A Renaissance Man

James Dun-Waters and his second wife Margaret circa 1938.

The Fintry Manor House circa 1935.

James had a great love of the outdoors, and was an avid hunter and athlete. His particular passion was for curling, and rinks in all parts of the province came to know the Laird’s gusty voice and buoyant personality. Even up until the day of his passing, Dun-Waters served as the President of the curling club in Fintry, Scotland. He also had a great interest in Ayrshire cattle, and cultivated his own award-winning herd. 

James was also an active community member, and was involved with the CPR, the BC Fruit Growers Association, and the Armstrong Interior Provincial Exhibition organization. He was married twice, first to Alice Orde, who died in 1924, and then to Margaret Menzies. He also served overseas during World War One.

Dun-Waters’ Legacy

When Dun-Waters’ health began to fail, and with no heir to inherit his property, he sold his estate at Fintry to the Fairbridge Farm School system for one dollar. James Cameron Dun-Waters died on October 16, 1939.

But what is his connection to whisky? Dun-Waters was a lover of the drink, and around 1910, had a special batch of scotch sent to him in Canada all the way from his native Scotland. The Okanagan Spirit’s creation uses a replica of the label that adorned these earlier bottles, and Dun-Waters’ story lives on.

To learn more about Dun-Waters, and to explore his unique Manor House, sign up for a Heritage Field Trip to the Fintry Estate on Friday, August 6, 2021.

Gwyn Evans

 

Alapetsa O’Keefe

July 21, 2021

 

For July and August, the Vernon Museum will share a series of articles that explore some of the many heritage sites around the North Okanagan. To plan a visit to any of the sites featured, please visit https://vernonmuseum.ca/explore/heritage-field-trips/.

Beauty & Bounty

Cornelius O’Keefe arrived at the head of Okanagan Lake in 1867, with his partners Thomas Greenhow and Thomas Wood, and a large herd of cattle.

Struck by the beauty and bounty of the region, O’Keefe decided to pre-empt 160 acres of land to start a ranch. With time, the O’Keefe Ranch grew to cover around 12,000 acres.

Long before O’Keefe’s arrival, the area was the traditional land territory of the Syilx People of the Okanagan Nation. For them, it was their home and native land, on which their culture can be traced by 10 centuries, and where many Syilx People live to this day.

Alapetsa 

The area was also home to a woman named Alapetsa.

Alapetsa (Rosie) was born to Stalekaya (Francois) and Sararenolay (Marie) circa 1850. Around 1869, she began living with Cornelius O’Keefe in a common-law marriage, and working around the ranch.  

 

A portrait of Christine Catherine O’Keefe, the daughter of Alapetsa and Cornelius O’Keefe (O’Keefe Ranch Archives)

 

A daughter, Christine, was born to the couple about 1871. They had at least one other child, a son, who is believed to have tragically drowned at a young age.   

Indigenous + Settler Unions

Alapetsa and Cornelius O’Keefe’s relationship was not a unique one. Most early European male settlers to the Okanagan Valley had an Indigenous partner, who provided the ranchers with companionship and assistance around the homestead. These partnerships were not legal marriages in a European sense, but they were considered binding.

While many ranchers formed true bonds of love and friendship with their Indigenous partners, societal pressure to remarry a more “proper” (that is, a European) wife, often resulted in the dissolution of these relationships and the disenfranchisement of the their Indigenous wives after only a few years.

societal pressure 

The relationship between Cornelius and Alapetsa was dissolved before he married a white woman in 1875. She remained in the area, raising her daughter Christine, and is believed to have eventually married a man named Michele. Alapetsa passed away in 1905.

To learn more about Alapetsa, as well as other powerful and unique women involved in O’Keefe Ranch, sign up for a Heritage Field Trip to O’Keefe Ranch on Friday, July 30, 2021.

Gwyn Evans

 

 

the K’nmaĺka? Sәnqâĺtәn Garden 

July 16, 2021

 

For July and August, the Vernon Museum will share a series of articles that explore some of the many heritage sites around the North Okanagan. To plan a visit to any of the sites featured, please visit https://vernonmuseum.ca/explore/heritage-field-trips/.

Syilx Okangan land

The K’nmaĺka? Sәnqâĺtәn Garden is situated on the Traditional and Unceded territories of the Syilx Nation, and is located at the Okanagan College.

The garden’s creation was a collaboration between the Okanagan Indian Band, Okanagan College, and the Food Action Society of the North Okanagan.

The showcases traditional Syilx plants, medicine, foods, and captikwł.

captikwł & the land

As per the Okanagan Nation Alliance website: “captikwł are a collection of teachings about Syilx Okanagan laws, customs, values, governance structures and principles that, together, define and inform Syilx Okanagan rights and responsibilities to the land and to Syilx Okanagan culture. These stories provide instruction on how to relate to and live on the land.”

 

Balsam Root, pictured here circa 1960, is one of several plants in the K’nmaĺka? Sәnqâĺtәn Garden that are part of the traditional Syilx diet.

 

The first plants added to the garden in 2017/’18 were harvested with permission from Elder Theresa Dennis, and came from the Similkameen territory, the SilverStar Mountain Area, and the Head of the Lake. Native plants such as bitter root, saskatoon, wild huckleberry, soap berry, and balsamroot came to rest in garden beds made from recycled materials and containing locally transplanted soil.

Food Sovereignty

Historically, the Syilx people subsisted on many of these plants, supplemented by wild fish, game, and fowl. This system of food sovereignty is by no means a past one, as many Indigenous people in the Okanagan and around the world still maintain a traditional diet instead of consuming only store-bought food.

Studies have found that a traditional diet is vitally important to the health of Indigenous individuals. In 2018, the University of Alberta interviewed 265 Syilx adults to reveal that the consumption of traditional foods, even in small amounts, led to significantly higher intakes of vital nutrients like protein, omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fibre, magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, and vitamins B6, B12, D, and E. Moreover, the study also determined that a traditional diet was extremely important for spiritual, cultural, social, psychological, and economic well-being. All of this likely comes as no surprise to those who follow a traditional diet today.

Indigenous Plants & Ecosystem Change

The historic transition by Indigenous Peoples to a Western diet was an act of survival in the face of multiple colonial policies that reduced access to traditional foods and contributed to ecosystem change; the impacts of this forced change continue to be seen today in the health disparities of Indigenous communities across the country. 

Places like the K’nmaĺka? Sәnqâĺtәn Garden provide visitors with an introduction to the roots, fruits, and vegetables that compose a traditional diet, as well as a greater appreciation for the connection Syilx People share with their Ancestral and Unceded Land and Territory.

To learn more, sign up for a Heritage Field Trip to K’nmaĺka? Sәnqâĺtәn Garden on Friday, July 23rd, 2021

 

Gwyn Evans

 

 

Vernon Preparatory School

July 12, 2021

 

For July and August, the Vernon Museum will share a series of articles that explore some of the many heritage sites around the North Okanagan. To plan a visit to any of the sites featured, please visit https://vernonmuseum.ca/explore/heritage-field-trips/.

The Mackie Family

In 1940, Hugh and Grace Mackie purchased a house at 7804 Kidston Road and turned it into a beautiful and serene home for themselves and their five boys.

Hugh and Grace had been in the Vernon area since 1913, when they arrived with Hugh’s brother Augustine, an Anglican cleric, to establish a boarding school for boys.

This institution, the purpose of which was to mold young boys into model English gentlemen, was called the Vernon Preparatory School.

schooled In British Culture

Such a school was in high demand at the time it was established. Around the turn of the 20th Century, the Vernon area was home to a significant number of settlers from the United Kingdom.

 

Group photo of the student body of the Vernon Preparatory School in front of the school building circa 1931. Headmasters Augustine and Hugh Mackie are located in the centre of the third row from the front, with Grace Mackie between them.

 

Although they had traveled great distances to live in Canada, many of them still wished to see their children educated in British custom and culture. The school officially opened in January of 1914 for male boarders and day pupils between the ages of 7 and 14. 

The school had a few different locations over the years. As the class sizes expanded, the Mackie Brothers ended up leasing the Hensman Ranch so that their facilities could accommodate up to 50 pupils. Here Reverend Mackie built the St. Nichola’s Chapel, which the students attended regularly as part of their curriculum.

Discipline and Reputation

Discipline was strict at the Vernon Prep School, and the boys started each day at 6 am with a cold bath in an unheated washroom. But they were also allowed to engage in a variety of sports, from cricket, to soccer, to badminton, to swimming, to hiking, and the food was said to be exceptional.

All of this helped to develop the credibility and reputation of the school. Gerry McGeer, Vancouver’s mayor from 1935 to 1945, even sent his son the Vernon Prep School. McGeer was known for his efforts to stamp out the booze trade in Vancouver’s underworld, and his son became the subject of retaliatory threats during his time at the school. Luckily, the threats never amounted to anything beyond words and the boy was kept safe under the watchful eye of the Mackie brothers.

Mackie Lake House

When the Mackies purchased what would become known as the Mackie Lake House, they retired from the teaching profession. The school remained in operation until 1972. In 1997, the property was purchased and transformed into what is now the Coldstream Meadows Retirement Home.

 

Gwyn Evans

 

 

Canadian Battle Drill School

July 5, 2021

 

For July and August, the Vernon Museum will share a series of articles that explore some of the many heritage sites around the North Okanagan. To plan a visit to any of the sites featured, please visit https://vernonmuseum.ca/explore/heritage-field-trips/.

Training centre on Coldstream Ranch

An exciting temporary exhibit by the Vernon Cadet Camp Museum explores the history of the Canadian Battle Drill School Training Centre located at the Coldstream Ranch from 1942 to 1946.

The pop-up museum exhibit is on display at Vernon’s Sun Valley Mall.at 3334 30th Avenue in Unit 110.

The exhibit displays aspects of the training centre, established by the Department of National Defence on 2,250 acres of land leased from the Coldstream Ranch.

First of its kind in Canada

The first of its kind in Canada, this training centre was a valuable contribution to Canada’s war efforts.

There was a personal motivation for the ranch’s manager, Thomas Hill, and the ranch’s owners. During the course of World War Two, 35 employees of the ranch enlisted for service overseas, with six never returning home.

 

Soldiers crawling through a trench filled with mud and water at the Canadian Battle Drill School at the Coldstream Ranch. In the background, instructors watch over the proceedings. (1944)

 

Devil’s Gulch

Arguably, one of the most interesting components of the Battle Drill School was its intense assault course, used to train soldiers in the maneuvering of hazardous landscapes. At the beginning of the course, a sign with the words “Devil’s Gulch. Abandon hope all ye who enter here,” topped by a bleached cow skull, signaled what was to come.

Upon entering the obstacle course, the school’s students would be faced with fences crudely wrapped in barbed wire. They would next have to scramble over a wooden structure 25 to 30 feet tall, before army crawling beneath entangled wire and through flooded trenches.

Hazed by Live Gunfire and the Occasional Rattlesnake

Soldiers-in-training had to traverse mud pit after mud pit, and then use ropes to scale down a vertical cliff face to reach the end of the course—only to have to turn back around and complete it in reverse. All along the way, they were hazed by live gunfire and the occasional rattlesnake.

As many as 20,000 soldiers trained at the Battle Drill School. Although the training was intense, many of the soldiers who endured it reported that without it, they would not have been able to survive, either physically or mentally, once they arrived overseas. 

Gwyn Evans