This article is part of the Vernon Archives’ “Roots of Green: Unearthing Horticultural History” series. Thank you to Wray McDonnell for his help.

A black and white image showing several sets of televisions on display in a shop.
A display of television at Vernon’s Hudson Bay Co. store circa 1960. This new technology was used by District Horticulturalist to connect with the Okanagan Valley’s growers.

A new technology debuts

Television made its debut in the Okanagan Valley in September 1957 with the launch of CHBC in Kelowna. At the onset, only 500 households owned television sets, but this figure surged to 10,000 by 1958. Among those quick to embrace this innovation were the Valley’s District Horticulturalists.

In April of 1958, Roy Chapman, general manager of CHBC, offered the horticultural branch 15 minutes of free airtime each week. Mike Oswell, who was serving as the District Horticulturalist for Vernon at the time, was assigned the responsibility of supervising the program. Initially, he hesitated to take on this task, since all television broadcasts were distributed live at the time, leaving little margin for error.

Okanagan farm and garden

Nevertheless, within a mere two weeks, Oswell has devised a program to occupy the 6:00 PM weekly slot, titled “Okanagan Farm and Garden.” The show aimed to share vital information on insect and disease control via a series of guest speakers. In its first episode, the discussion focused on fire blight, a destructive disease capable of decimating blossoms and shoots, leading to branch dieback in apple and pear trees.

Following the first three episodes, CHBC asked Oswell to expand the program to 30 minutes, which he willingly accepted. The ensuing discussions covered a wide array of topics including home vegetable gardening, lawn maintenance, sheep farming, the 4H program, and weed eradication. Some episodes even featured live animals. The studio atmosphere was described as relaxed and amiable, with surprisingly few technical difficulties. Oswell hosted the program for a year before passing the baton to Bob Wilson, District Horticulturalist for Kelowna.

chautauquas

In 1963, the channel introduced another horticultural-themed show called Chesterfield Chautauqua (named after the Chautauqua meetings utilized by the horticultural branch as a vital extension activity), allowing growers to phone in queries and receive live responses. By 1964, the program had been renamed Sunrise Chautauqua. CHBC continued airing horticultural programs until the 1970s, when airtime was no longer freely available. Consequently, the branch could not sustain this initiative financially, but fortunately, other extension projects ensured that District Horticulturalists remained available to assist both new and seasoned growers.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

 

 

 

This article is part of the Vernon Archives’ “Roots of Green: Unearthing Horticultural History” series. Thank you to Wray McDonnell for his help.

A colour image of a group of people standing on a green lawn, with a small tree in front of them.
A group of OVTFA summer students and supervising horticulturalists at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland, circa 1991. Pictured from left to right are Adrienne Roberts, assistant to the OVTFA’s CEO; Mike Sanders, Ministry Apple Specialist in Kelowna; Helmut Arndt, Ministry Horticulturalist in Kelowna; Ross Hudson, CEO of the OVTFA; Tim Watson, Ministry Horticulturalist in Oliver; Peter Waterman, Ministry Horticulturist in Penticton; an unknown summer student from Penticton; Lisa Jarrett, summer student from Kelowna; an unknown summer student; an unknown summer student; and Marie Pattison, Director of Finance and Admin for the OVTFA. Photo courtesy of Wray McDonnell.

The role of summer students

During the summer months, students play a vital supportive role for numerous businesses and industries throughout the Okanagan Valley, including those of horticulture and agriculture.

In July 1990, the Government of British Columbia established the Okanagan Valley Tree Fruit Authority (OVTFA), a new crown corporation aimed at rejuvenating the tree fruit industry, which had been suffering from poor market returns. The organization primarily focused on supporting replanting efforts and addressing production-related issues. Under the management of Wray MacDonnell, teams of summer students were enlisted to aid in extension activities, facilitating the industry’s transition from traditional, large apple orchards to more modern, high-density and profitable plantings.

Earlier times

Even in earlier times, the industry relied on student labour; in 1935, a young Maurice Welsh spent two weeks boring apple trees and administering boron compounds, which play a crucial role in flower development and fruit production. Dr. Welsh eventually rose to become the Head of the Plant Pathology Laboratory at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland, and later served as the town’s District Horticulturalist.

During the 1960s and ‘70s, summer students were involved in developing a leaf analysis technique to identify hidden deficiencies or nutrient imbalances in trees, often tasked with sample collection. Around the same time, students were hired to aid in maintaining the Valley’s tomato crop. The industry would arrange for the rental of vehicles for students who lacked their own transportation, enabling them to travel between different sites.

A stepping stone to a successful career

Welsh was not the sole student to achieve a successful career in the industry following a summer placement. In 1961, John Price began as a Summer Student at the Summerland Research Station, lodging in a house managed by Dr. Lyall Denby. At first, the students remained near the boarding house, cautious of the distinct wildlife in the Okanagan, as Denby had warned them about rattlesnakes, scorpions, and tomato hornworms inhabiting the area. However, their fear did not confine them for long, and Price later served as a District Horticulturalist for Oliver and Vernon.

Like the efforts of horticulturalists themselves, over the years students have offered invaluable yet occasionally unnoticed contributions to the agricultural sector; their recruitment has provided essential labor, fresh viewpoints, and contributed to the long-term sustainability of the industry.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

 

 

 

A black and white image of a building, showing two men in apron looking out from a doorway. On the left of the building are a series of stacked milk pails, and on the right, a sign that reads "Home of Armstrong Cheese."
The Armstrong Cheese Co-Operative plant in 1940.

The ultimate comfort food

Cold snowy weather calls for comfort food like pizza, and what would pizza be without its quintessential cheese topping?

Moving back in time to 1902, the residents of the Village of Armstrong joined forces to establish a creamery, financing the project through the sale of land shares. Despite initial resistance from the municipal council, this determined group overcame obstacles. By the year’s end, a creamery had been constructed, furnished, and a skilled butter maker hired.

As detailed in an article by Mary Blackburn in the 47th Report of the Okanagan Historical Society, the creamery was situated just north of Armstrong, near Fortune Creek. In 1916, it was reorganized as part of the North Okanagan Creamery Association (NOCA), collecting milk from dairy farms extending from Mara Lake southwards to Vernon. By 1923, the Armstrong Creamery was producing an impressive 12,000 pounds of butter per month.

The City of Vernon Muscles in

The creamery changed hands in 1925, when it was purchased by Pat Burns and Co., becoming part of the Okanagan Valley Co-Operative Creamery (although the NOCA brand name persisted). Two years later, a devastating fire wiped out the Armstrong creamery, prompting the Vernon City Council to offer incentives to Pat Burns and Co. to centralize the creamery industry in Vernon. The history of NOCA and the Okanagan Valley Co-Operative Creamery carries on from here, but back in Armstrong, the loss of the dairy industry was being keenly felt.

A silver lining emerged in 1938 with the opening of a new cheese factory under the guidance of Charles Busby. Once again, shares were gathered for construction, leading to the official incorporation of the Armstrong Cheese Co-Operative in 1939. Armstrong Cheese swiftly became a renowned business, with temperature-controlled cooling rooms facilitating longer aging and mass production resulting in sales of 820,000 pounds a year by 1943.

Goodbye Armstrong

Fast forward to 1997, and the company changed hands, sold to Dairyworld Foods, the production and marketing arm of Agrifoods International Cooperative Ltd. In 2003, Saputo Inc. acquired Dairyworld Foods, including the Armstrong Cheese brand, and in 2004, closed the Armstrong plant.

Fortunately, just a few years prior in 1998, the Village Cheese Company opened in Armstrong, keeping the tradition of quality cheese-making alive in the region. Although the Armstrong Cheese brand can still be purchased throughout the North Okanagan, it is no longer the result of North Okanagan milk, most of which is now produced in Abbotsford, B.C., before being shipped to Calgary, A.B., for packaging.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

This article is part of the Vernon Archives’ “Roots of Green: Unearthing Horticultural History” series. Thank you to Wray McDonnell for his help.

A sepia image taken inside a hall showing a large display of vegetablrs.
A display of fruits and vegetables grown in Vernon circa 1910. In his role as District Horticulturalist, Maurice King took measures to guarantee the ongoing inclusion of judged produce displays as an integral part of community fairs.

Earl Maurice King

Horticulture is a branch of agriculture that is concerned with the cultivation of plants for food or for ornament, and B.C. is a haven for both. Given the diverse flora that graces our landscapes, horticulturists here often specialize in specific crops.

In 1954, Earl Maurice King, fondly called Maurie, took on the role of vegetable specialist for the interior of British Columbia. Based in Kelowna, he dedicated 12 years to collaborating with other District Horticulturalists and District Agriculturalists across the Okanagan Valley, the Kootenays, Central B.C., and the Peace River.  

AGS VERSUS HORTS

Incidentally, the difference between District Agriculturalists and District Horticulturalists lies in their primary areas of focus. While agriculturalists collaborate with livestock, dairy, poultry, and swine producers, horticulturalists concentrate on fruits, vegetables, and related crops like grapes and nursery stock. Both the “Ags” and “Horts,” as they were commonly known, were required to have a deep understanding of farmers and farms in their districts. This involved on-farm visits, field days, meetings, newsletters, office consultations, and more. Sometimes, it demanded considerable empathy to address growers’ concerns around low market returns, pest and disease issues, weather-related losses, and financial pressures. After all, farming is inherently a risky venture!

King’s responsibilities as a vegetable specialist extended beyond crop expertise. Notably, when financial challenges led the provincial Department of Agriculture to withdraw its official support for judging exhibitions and fall fairs, King stepped up. He organized workshops to share the standards of perfection in fruits, vegetables, and flowers, ensuring that events like the I.P.E. could continue hosting judged exhibitions.

Workforce Diversification 

Looking back on his time in this role, King highlights that it was mostly women who took on the responsibility of horticultural judging after the Department of Agriculture’s withdrawal. The demonstrated expertise of women in this role likely played a part in the Department’s decision to hire its first female extension horticulturalists in the 1960s, a trend that continued into the ’70s and ’80s.

Even after King concluded his role as District Horticulturalist in 1966 upon relocating to Victoria, his commitment to the province’s agricultural community continued for an additional 18 years. During this period, he served in various capacities, ranging from establishing a federal-provincial crop insurance program to assuming the role of Associate Deputy Minister of Agriculture. He also ventured into entrepreneurship, managing his own agricultural consulting company in the later years of his career.

King passed away on December 21, 2023, at the age of 102.

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

 

 

 

This article is part of the Vernon Archives’ “Roots of Green: Unearthing Horticultural History” series. Thank you to Wray McDonnell for his help.

Colour photo of a group of horticulturalists posing at the side of a road in front of a lack. 18 men are pictured. Peter Humphry-Baker is pictured wearing a blue shirt.
Humphry-Baker, pictured front row third from right, in 1971 with a group of horticulturalists from across BC. This group of horticulture experts worked with many producers of crops other than tree fruits including vegetables, small fruits, grapes, etc. Photo courtesy of Wray McDonnell.

Peter Humphry-Baker

Peter Humphry-Baker, a World-War-Two Veteran born in India to British parents, began as District Horticulturalist in Vernon in March 1967. Approaching the position with “considerable interest and high expectations,” this marked his first ever visit to the Okanagan Valley. His initial impressions were shaped by the impressive size of its lakes and apples, and he was particularly struck by his first sighting of a planting of apricots.

After this initial wide-eyed delight, Humphry-Baker found the fruit growers to be a friendly and hospitable group who were ready to discuss their problems and toss around solutions in a frank and open manner. He quickly became a trusted member of the fruit growing scene.

The challenges begin

For the first few years of Humphry-Baker’s service, the agriculture office was located in the Vernon Court House, a building which he described as “the most prestigious in the City, with its wide steps leading up to the imposing granite columns that gave it an air of permanence and solid respectability.” He worked in this space with an entomologist, a veterinarian, an engineering officer, a vegetable specialist, a district agriculturalist, and two stenographers. They were said to be quite the merry crew.  

Humphry-Baker’s first winter in the Okanagan was one of the coldest the Valley had ever experienced, with temperatures in January of 1968 falling below 40°C. In this severe weather, he recounted hearing the bark splitting on trees, exposing their cambium layer and resulting in significant damage and casualties among them. The following spring and summer brought an extensive workload for Humphry-Baker as he worked diligently to support the fruit growers affected by this devastating event.

Successful Career

In 1969, Humphry-Baker played a role in introducing a computerized accounting system for fruit growers to streamline their monthly operations. Recognizing the growers’ limited experience in this domain, he organized a widely-attended financial forum. The event featured a panel comprising accountants, bankers, and real estate representatives.

During his time as District Horticulturalist, Humphry-Baker was also involved with a series of experiments involving fertilizer use, pollination, and the cottage winery industry. He remained in Vernon until 1973, when he became director of the Crop Insurance Branch in Victoria. Peter Humphry-Baker passed away on September 12, 2007.

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

 

 

 

This article is part of the Vernon Archives’ “Roots of Green: Unearthing Horticultural History” series.

A black and white image of a roadway in an orchard. Two men are standing next to an old-fashioned sprayer and are spraying a substance onto trees.
Two men spraying a Vernon orchard with a horse-drawn sprayer circa 1930.

wRAY McDonnell

Thanks to a recent donation, the Vernon Archives now boasts an enhanced coverage of the history of horticulture in the Greater Vernon area. This topic will be explored in a series of articles over the next few months.

In the mid-1990s, Wray McDonnell, an Agrologist and Program Manager for horticulture with the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, decided to take on the task of documenting some history of horticulture extension in the province of B.C. McDonnell worked with a number of retired horticulturists to collect their stories, copies of which have been donated to the Vernon Archives so that they can be preserved for future generations.

wwii-1960s

The following information was provided by one such horticulturalist, Alec Watt of Summerland, who retired from the industry in 1981. Watt was the district’s pear specialist, and was credited with discovering the “spur-type” variant of the Macintosh apple in 1967. He also had a superb knowledge of the history of the industry in which he was employed.

In Watt’s words, district horticulturists had worked with B.C. fruit growers since the Provincial Government established a field service early in the 20th Century. These individuals were first called district field inspectors, and some came from as far away as Scotland to fill this role.

The period from World War Two to the 1960s was one of rapid technological and horticultural change. Concentrate sprayers gradually replaced the cumbersome gun sprayers of earlier years; sprinkler irrigation replaced furrow irrigation; new chemicals arrived on the scene; and herbicides were introduced for the first time. That same time also saw many older fruit trees in the Valley destroyed by a series of harsh winters, including whole orchards of peaches, apricots, and cherries.

iN high demand

This era kept horticulturalist particularly busy, as they moved here and there helping growers to adjust to these drastic changes. They administered government aid programs, work which continues to this day, and, according to Watt, there was hardly a major scientific development in the fruit industry in which the horticulturists were not involved.

They continued to be in high-demand in the 1970s and ‘80s, when Watt retired, both among professional growers and home gardeners. Watt recalled one grower calling a horticulturist at 6:00 AM to find out what to put in his sprayer tank; the horticulturist then phoned him back at 11:00 PM to ask how he had gotten on with his spraying.

Despite their vital importance to the Okanagan agriculture industry since their earliest days until today, the hard work of district horticulturalists over the years has gone somewhat unacknowledged. It is thanks to individuals like McDonnell and Watt, in collaboration with growers, that people across the Valley are able to enjoy world-class fruit throughout the year.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

 

 

 

A black-and-white image of a table covered with a white table cloth and laden with a variety of vegetables including carrots, potatoes, and turnips. Large cabbages are placed on the ground beside the table.
A vegetable display at Vernon’s first agricultural fair in 1891.

132 Years ago

Today marks 132 years since Vernon hosted its first fall fair, an event which was organized by the Okanagan and Spallumcheen Agricultural Society and described as “a thorough success.”

On October 15, 1891, locals and visitors alike poured into the City to take in the bounty of the season. Surprisingly, the exact building in which the fair was hosted is unknown, but it was described as “prettily decorated with corn, hops and evergreens, the whole forming a pleasing effect, while great taste was displayed in arranging the exhibits in the most attractive manner.”

A variety of exhibits

On entering the building, the first display that caught the eye was that of the Columbia Flouring Mill from Enderby. This display consisted of sacks of their three well-known flour brands and small bottles containing samples of fall and spring wheat grown in the district. Beyond this was an exhibit of stoves and hardware by William Joseph Armstrong.

Two more mercantile exhibits followed, a harness and saddlery collection by W. R. Megaw, and a furniture display by J. C. Campbell. A “wonderful display” of produce featured cabbages and beets, grain, fruit and other vegetables, and, according to the Vernon News, “a more magnificent display has not been shown in the Province.” The samples of grain were described as particularly “astonishing and delightful” for even the most critical of onlookers.

There were also a variety of judged livestock displays; J. T. Steele dominated the Durham division, while Forbes Vernon took the top spots in the Hereford division. Meanwhile, Price Ellison received first prize for “best stallion.” Judges also viewed sheep, chickens, and cows, as well as awarded prizes for “best bush potatoes,” “best 5lbs of butter” and “best sample of two bread loaves.”

Celebrate guests 

Guests came as far away as the coast to visit the fair, thanks to the arrival of the first passenger train in Vernon, which coincided with the event and marked the near-completion of the S & O Railway. Many of the region’s most-well known settlers were also in attendance, including the Lord and Lady Aberdeen, Moses Lumby, E. J. Tronson, and Luc Girouard.  

For some time, the Okanagan and Spallumcheen Agricultural Society fair was considered the largest exhibition of its kind in the B.C. Interior, a title which was later surrendered to Armstrong’s Interior Provincial Exhibition. Vernon continued to host agricultural fairs into the 1960s, with a particularly popular one at the Civic Arena in 1964, and featuring horse demonstrations, flower shows, and other agricultural exhibits.

Eventually, as the popularity of the IPE continued to grow, Vernon exhibitors and fairgoers decided to journey a little ways north to take in this bigger event, and the city stop hosting its own fall fair.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

 

 

For the months of June and July, we are thrilled to present a series of blog posts by Collections Intern Rebeka Beganova. Rebeka (she/her) is a post-secondary student with a passion for research, literature, and history. Having completed an Associate of Arts Degree at Okanagan College, she is glad to be joining the MAV team during her last summer in Vernon before heading off to UBC Vancouver. There is no better way to say goodbye to her hometown than to explore its local history!

A display of Vernon fruit at the Spokane Fruit Fair, 1909.

International Renown

With the summer in full swing, Vernon residents are once again reminded of the delicacy that is Okanagan-grown fruit. Fresh produce is a staple in seasonal menus, and it has been for over a century. Even in 1891, fruit production and export was projected as a leading industry in the Okanagan. Lists predicting the most profitable harvests were published in the Vernon News each year, along with detailed diagrams for fruit packing that included satisfying photographs of the desired results (such as the one included here). All the effort for quality and aesthetics was not wasted, as the fame of Okanagan fruit soon reached around the world. In 1905, the Royal Horticultural Society Exhibition in London awarded eight silver medals to produce submissions from the BC area – and five of those went to Okanagan growers.

A black-and-white image of a man wearing a cap and suspenders and standing next to a stack of apple boxes.
An unknown man pictured with stacks of fruit boxes, 1920. Behind the fame of Okanagan fruit was (and is) the labour of countless workers.

Swallow the apples, not the pride

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the glory of the fruit industry became a point of fierce pride for many. Innumerable newspaper articles either explicitly or implicitly compared Vernon produce to that of other places. In the late 1800s, a scheme by American companies was uncovered where they were apparently re-branding Canadian apples as the “best American apples” before shipping out to England. Their own products, along with lower-quality Canadian, were passed off as belonging solely to the latter. The indignation and disgust was clear in local reports of these events.

 A humourous example of how quickly pride could take hold is the time a prosperous peach tree sprung up at Trout Creek. An excited letter from the president of a mining company cropped up in the papers, in which he stated, “I am more convinced than ever that we are quite likely to become a good deal more than small potatoes in peach production.” Keep in mind, this comment came about after witnessing one promising tree. A reply was printed shortly after, where a Mr. Robinson (who, to his credit, at least tasted the peaches) “found them, if anything, larger and of better flavor than [those of] the Lambly ranch.” Simply put, Vernon and surrounding areas felt unbeatable in their industry.

Defending one’s Honour

Nothing raised the fruit growers’ hackles quite like public attacks from the competition. In 1892, the president of the Ontario Fruit-Growers’ Association, Mr. Boulter, reported to the Winnipeg Free Press that there was no Okanagan equal to Ontario produce. In response, a two-column long, front-page article appeared in the Vernon News, praising BC fruit and rebuffing the outspoken commentator. The colourful language included one memorable metaphor, where the passionate statements of a local grower were compared to “some of the Okanagan fruit, hurling at the devoted head of the indiscreet Mr. Boulter.” Similar gripes were displayed against Calgary spokesmen and innocent people remarking about fruit pests.

In the end, perhaps these moments of heated argumentation are to be excused; a reputation, if well-earned, deserves a strong defence. However, as we enjoy the beaches and fruit stands, recall that tempers can boil just as easily as delicious produce under the summer sun.

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!

Rebeka Beganova, Collections Intern

 

 

 

A black-and-white photos of a group of men leaning against, or standing between, two ladders.
Japanese orchard labourers circa 1943 in Vernon. Makoto Kawamoto, standing in the between the two ladders, willingly took up work in a Vernon Orchard after being forcibly removed from the “protected zone” to Lillooet, B.C. He and his family later moved to Vernon and became champions of Japanese culture and tradition.

Asian History Month

May is Asian History Month in Canada, and this year’s theme is “Stories of Determination,” in acknowledgement of the challenges overcome by Asian communities in Canada over the last two centuries. One local community who exemplifies this story of triumph-over-adversity is Vernon’s Japanese-Canadian population.

An online exhibit from the University of Victoria’s Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives, titled “Landscapes of Injustice,” starkly reveals the role Vernon played during the dispossession of Japanese Canadians as part of their forced displacement and internment in the 1940s.

World War Two

In 1942, following the attack on Pearl Harbour, the Federal Government called for the removal of Japanese Canadian men between the ages of 18 to 45 from a “protected zone” along the B.C. coast. A few months later, this order was expanded to include all Japanese men, women, and children living within this zone, despite the fact that over 75% of them were Canadian-born or naturalized citizens.

After first being sent to makeshift holding centres in Vancouver’s Hastings Park (where the celebrated PNE is now held), most were sent to internment camps in B.C.’s Interior. The men were often separated from their wives and children in these camps, and forced to complete roadwork and other physical labour.

Forced relocation

Vernon was not the site of an internment camp during the Second World War, unlike the First World War, which saw 1100 individuals of mostly Austro-Hungarian and German descent interned on the site of what is now MacDonald Park. However, hundreds of Japanese Canadians were forcibly uprooted to Vernon during this time, in part due to the fact that the Okanagan Security Committee was pushing for the use of interned Japanese as involuntary orchard labourers.

Edith Nishikawa came to Canada as a young child with her parents Usaburo and Tora, and later became a naturalized citizen. At the age of 17, while attending high school in Vancouver, she was forcibly uprooted, along with Usaboro and Tora, and sent to Vernon.

Born in Canada in 1921, 21-year-old Suyeo Kawamoto was sent to Vernon in 1943; his removal occurred despite evidence that he was not living within the “protected zone,” since he was working as a farmer in Maple Ridge.

Japanese national Chikao Yamamoto, born in 1888, was working for the B.C. Fir and Cedar Company in Vancouver when he, his wife Etsu, and children Masao (11), Kazuko (9) and Tsugiwo (7), were sent to Vernon in 1942; in 1946, a year after the war ended, they were exiled to Japan.

Stories of Determination 

Unfortunately, these are just a few stories among many. But despite this opposition, many Japanese Canadians, both those who were forcibly removed to Vernon and those who moved here willingly over the years, were determined to carve a space for themselves, and contributed to the forming of a rich local Japanese community.

To celebrate Asian History Month, the Vernon Museum is hosting a special exhibit. Learn about the richness and diversity of Asian Canadian heritage in the Okanagan. Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and South Asian cultures will be represented in this exhibition. Interpretative panels and tri-folds explore each community as unique and integral parts of Okanagan culture. Traditional clothing and cultural objects, both part of Vernon Museum’s collection, and on loan from Okanagan residents, will be on display as well. 

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

 

 

 

A black-and-white photo of a group of men. Four are standing in the back and five are seated in the front.
A group photo of some of the Okanagan’s “founding fathers” in 1890. Moses Lumby is located in the back row, second from left. Also pictured are (back, left to right) Cornelius O’Keefe, Luc Girouard, James Charles Crozier and (front, left to right) Edward Tronson, Bernard Lequime, Frederick Brent, Isadore Boucherie and Thomas Ellis.

A Lasting Legacy

You may never have heard of him, but in spite of his humble presence in talks of Vernon’s non-Indigenous pioneers, Moses Lumby left an impact on the valley that can still be seen today.

Moses Lumby was born in Nottinghamshire, England, to Ann and Frederick Lumby on Dec. 30, 1840. He came to Canada around 1861 or 1862, attracted to the area, like many others, by reports of gold being discovered. He first went up the Stikine River with a group of prospectors, but did not make the fortune for which he had been hoping.

A black-and-white photo of a man standing  in a room. He has an ornate cane and a hand in one hand. He is wearing a suit and pocket watch.
Formal portrait of Moses Lumby, circa 1890. GVMA #019.

Agriculture and transportation

By 1869, Lumby and some friends were operating a ranch in the Spallumcheen Valley, the Traditional and Ancestral Territories of the Syilx and Secwepemc Peoples. He had been drawn to the area by an old acquaintance of his, A.L. Fortune, who was the region’s first non-Indigenous settler. The ranch thrived, and in one particular year, Lumby reportedly sold 90 tons of fall wheat, 250 tons of spring wheat, and 20 tons of oats to a single company, Columbia Mills.

By the 1880s, the settler-colonial population of the Spallumcheen Valley had grown significantly, and it was time for an update in transportation. Lumby played an instrumental role in the formation of the Shuswap & Okanagan Railway Co., and spent years petitioning the provincial government to extend a railway line into the Okanagan Valley. Finally, in 1892, a spur line of the C.P.R. was completed between Sicamous and Vernon’s Okanagan Landing.

Politics and Law

In addition to his work in agriculture and transportation, Lumby contributed to local politics and law. In 1877, he was made a Justice of the Peace, and in 1892 became the Government Agent for the district. Later that same year, he chaired the meeting that brought about the incorporation of the City of Vernon.

In September of 1893, Lumby developed a cold that lingered for months. He traveled to Victoria for treatment, where it was discovered that he was suffering from typhoid fever. Sadly, he never recovered and passed away on Oct. 22, at the age of 52.

After his death, the Vernon News wrote that “since he became a resident of the place no man has been more interested in its welfare or has been more unselfish in his efforts to advance its interests.” It was in honour of this legacy that, shortly before his death, in August of 1892, the town of White Valley changed its name to Lumby.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

This blog post was researched and written by Alice Howitt, museum ambassador. Well done, Alice!