Historical Vernon Research Guide


Below you’ll find a series of links and resources compiled by our archival team to help you along your research journey. 

Photographs &

Newspapers

 

Local Heritage & History Topics

 

Research Packets for kids

 

SYILX History

 

Cemeteries & Genealogy

 

Electoral & Demographic History

 

Military History

 

Natural & Environmental History

 

Click here for a list of other useful research resources which you can find in our archives.

If you have any questions, or would like to book an appointment to visit the archives, please contact gwyn.evans@vernonmuseum.ca. Our team is happy to help!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A black-and-white photo of a group of clowns with balloons and props posing for the camer.
Members of the Kalamalka Caring Klowns in 2003. Photo by Brenda Hala, as appeared in the Vernon Morning Star of September 3, 2003.

World Kindness Day

November 13 is World Kindness Day and one local organization committed to spreading kindness and laughter is the Kalamalka Caring Klowns.

In May of 1999, Carole Fawcett founded the Caring Klowns to provide therapeutic care at hospitals, care facilities, and health-related community events. The group began with about 20 volunteers who were trained in the art of clowning.

Anyone can be a clown

Since the group’s conception, they have hosted an annual fundraiser to train new volunteers. Each session covers clown history, etiquette, costumes, props, and pantomime. In 2003, Fawcett encouraged people of all personality types to join the group; in her words, “it does take a special person, someone who is compassionate and a good listener, but clowns can be very quiet people.”

In 2013, members of the Kalamalka Caring Klowns visited Agnes Van Steenburgh, a resident of Abbeyfield House, on her 102nd Birthday. They also honoured World Laughter Day with a Laughter Circle. In December of 2019, nine clowns made the rounds at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital, singing carols for patients and staff.

The Power of Empathy

Over the years they have made appearances at a number of community activities, including the Winter Carnival and I.P.E. Parades, and fundraising events such as those hosted by the Canadian Cancer Society and the Heart and Stoke Foundation.

As the COVID-19 Pandemic began to ease, the Caring Klowns could once again host their annual workshop in August of this year, under the direction of Bubbles (Doris) and Gizmo (Donna), long-time members of the organization. 

Those involved with the Kalamalka Caring Klowns embody the message of World Kindness Day, and beneath their colourful costumes, props, and personas is a profound demonstration of the power of empathy.     

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

A man wearing a military uniform is holding a sword with a woman in a suit jacket with a neck scarf and a poppy broach. A number of people are standing in the background.
David Kinloch at Camp Vernon the year he earned the position of Honourary Colonel of the B.C. Dragoons, 1973. With him is Constance Pearkes, wife of former Lieutenant Governor George Pearkes.

A lOcal Hero

He is remembered as Greater Vernon’s top military leader.

Colonel David Kinloch was born in Scotland in 1914, but moved to Coldstream at the age of five. In 1934, he joined the Canadian Officer Training Corps, the country’s university officer training program. He was transferred to the B.C. Dragoons as a lieutenant in 1939, and, during World War Two, served with the 9th Armoured Regiment in Canada, Italy, and Britain.

Lieutenant – Major – Colonel

Over the years, Kinloch reached a number of different ranks. During the war, he was promoted to the position of major. In 1963, he earned the rank of Colonel, and in 1973, that of Honourary Colonel of the B.C. Dragoons.

In 1991, Kinloch visited the Montecchio War Cemetery in northeastern Italy, where many of his fellow soldiers of the B.C. Dragoons lost their lives during the Battle of the Gothic Line in August of 1944. Kinloch was instrumental in ensuring that this history was preserved, and saw a number of important Dragoon records donated to the Vernon Archives.

Civic Spirit

In addition to his active military career, Kinloch was very civic-minded. He served as the first full-time commander of the Vernon Army Cadet Camp from 1951 to 1952. He was a Coldstream municipal clerk from 1945 to 1952, and worked at the Hiram Walker Distillery until retiring in 1977. He was also a member of the Vernon Rotary Club, the Royal Canada Legion, and the Miriam Lodge.

In 2002, the City of Vernon presented Kinloch with its highest honour—the Freedom of the City. Colonel David Kinloch passed away in 2003.

We will remember them.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

Two black and white photos of the same woman. The left photo shows a younger woman gazing away from the camera. She has curly dark hair pulled back into a low bun, and is wearing a white dress with a lace collar and floral ornament at the front of her shirt. The right photo is of an older woman, also gazing away from the camera. She is also wearing a white dress or shirt, which is fastened around the neck with a broach.
(Left) Sophie Johnson circa 1884 and (right) circa 1900.

A remarkable women in Vernon’s History

Since 1992, October has served as Women’s History Month in Canada, which includes International Day of the Girl on October 11 and Persons Day on October 18.

Much is known about her husband Price Ellison, one of Vernon’s founding fathers and a Member of the Legislative Assembly, but Sophia Christine Ellison (often called Sophie) is just as remarkable for her contributions to this City.

a yOUNG wOMAN ARRIVES IN vERNON

Sophie Johnson was born in 1857 to Lutheran missionaries from Sweden who settled in the eastern United States. When she was 27, Sophie travelled with her cousin Emma Lind to Vernon to visit her uncle Peter Anderson. Vernon at the time was mostly occupied by single men, so the arrival of the ladies caused quite a bit of excitement. It wasn’t long before the beautiful Sophie caught the eye of blacksmith and rancher Price Ellison, whom she later married.

Vernon’s First School Teacher

In October of 1884, a one-room school house was opened in Vernon, on what is now 25th Avenue, to serve the children of five local families. Sophie was asked to teach the children, since although she had no formal training, she had an extensive knowledge of art, literature, and music. She agreed, and became Vernon’s first teacher.

Unfortunately, the schoolhouse was burnt down in March of 1885; a blaze began while Sophie and the children were inside completing their lessons, as recounted by student Marie Houghton (later Brent). They managed to carry everything movable outside, but their beloved schoolhouse was lost. 

A new one was built, but Sophie stepped down from teaching when she became pregnant with her first child. Sophie and Price Ellison went on to have 8 children. The family first lived in a log cabin near Price’s forge, but once they outgrew that, moved to a three-story home on Pleasant Valley Road.

An activte mother and community member

In addition to caring for her large family, Sophie was an active community member. She served on the Vernon Branch of the Council of Women and the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Board, and was the first president of the Vernon & District Women’s Institute. She played the pipe organ at two local churches, and was an avid supporter of the Girl Guides of Canada.

When Sophie celebrated her 90th birthday in 1947, the Vernon News described her life as “bound up intimately with the development and growth of her beloved city.” Sophie Ellison passed away on July 4, 1954.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

An undated photo of an orchard in bloom in Coldstream. Temporary foreign workers from Latin America (and other regions) have served in Vernon’s agricultural industry for decades.

Latin American Heritage Month

In 2018, October was declared Latin American Heritage Month in Canada. Latin America stretches from Mexico to Tierra Del Fuego, and B.C., as well as Vernon in particular, has a closer relationship with the region than one might think.

Temporary Foreign Workers in B.C. and Vernon

During the Fraser River Gold Rush of 1858, Mexican labourers arrived in the colony of British Columbia to serve as pack train operators who led long processions of horses, donkeys, or other pack animals loaded with freight. About 400 horses and mules from Mexico journeyed into the province alongside the pack train operators.

Between the years of 1892 and 1973, no individual from Latin America was naturalized at the Vernon Court House, but temporary foreign workers from the region did begin arriving around the turn of the 21st century. In 2005, that there were about 400 temporary foreign workers in the Valley, a number which increased to around 3,000 in 2009.

Challenges and vulnerabilities

The Vernon and District Immigrant and Community Service Society hosted pop-up clinics with Interior Health for temporary foreign workers during the COVID-19 pandemic (photo courtesy of VDICSS, 2021).

The temporary foreign worker population continued to grow over the next few years (and this trend is set to continue) to meet the Okanagan’s economic development and labour market needs; however, these individuals often face health and safety concerns while at work. Since the 1980s, it has been difficult to locate temporary housing for foreign workers, and, in more recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic left them particular vulnerable.

In 2020, the Vernon and District Immigrant and Community Services Society committed to identifying and responding to the needs of temporary foreign workers, as well as creating a database of information highlighting their economic impact on the region. In 2021, the group teamed up with Interior Health to host a number of pop-up vaccination clinics for temporary workers.

In terms of permanent Latin American immigrants in Vernon, the 2016 Census identified 35 originating from Mexico, 10 from Brazil, 20 from Colombia, 20 from El Salvador, and 20 from Guyana.  

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

A black and white photo of a man wearing a white shirt and sitting among boxes of Okanagan Spring Lager and Pale Ale. He is smiling at the camera.
Jakob Tobler, president of the Okanagan Spring Brewery, in 1989. Tobler emigrated with his family from Germany in the 1980s, and is one of several Germany-Canadians who have contributed to Vernon’s cultural diversity.

German Heritage Month

October is German Heritage Month in Canada! With more than 3 million people, German Canadians represent one of the biggest cultural groups in the country, which has in turn adopted a wide range of German traditions, including the celebrated Oktoberfest.

German Immigration

Silky flag of Germany waving in the wind with highly detailed fabric texture

The first Germans in Western Canada arrived in 1817 as part of a military contingent hired by Lord Selkirk of the Red River Colony. Immigration to the Okanagan Valley, meanwhile, began around the turn of the 20th century.

In July of 1911, the Vernon News reported that a number of German residents living in the Canadian prairies were visiting the Valley in the hope of finding land on which to settle. The first German settler who was naturalized at the Vernon Courthouse was William Harroff, a carpenter, in 1923. By 1947, approximately another 450 German immigrants became Canadian Citizens at the Courthouse.

Discrimination and celebration

An angry crowd confronting German settlers on board the S. S. Sicamous circa 1919.

Although German culture is now rightly celebrated in Vernon and the Okanagan Valley, it goes without saying that this was not always the case, considering the complicated legacy of the two World Wars.

Within days of the outbreak of World War One, the Canadian government developed a comprehensive set of national security guidelines around German immigrants to Canada. Then, between 1914 and 1918, hundreds of German men, women, and children were incarcerated at the Vernon Internment Camp.

In 1919, after the war had ended, the S.S. Sicamous docked in Kelowna with a number of German settlers on board, and was met by an angry crowd. This sentiment towards German immigrants continued up to and beyond World War Two.

Thankfully, this time of distrust and discrimination is largely behind us, and as of 2016, Vernon was home to more than 10,000 people of German descent, including the celebrated Tobler Family of the Okanagan Spring Brewery.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

The Vernon Mosque shortly after its opening in 2012. Courtesy of Waymarking.com.

Canadian islamic History Month

October is a busy month! In addition to LGBTQ+ History Month, it is also Canadian Islamic History Month, German Heritage Month, Latin American Heritage Month, and Women’s History Month. All of these occasions will be featured in posts throughout October, beginning with Canadian Islamic History Month.

Muslim Immigration

Four years after Canadian Confederation, as noted in the 1871 Canadian Census, thirteen Muslim Europeans were living in Canada. By 1938, the population had increased to approximately 700, and the country’s first mosque was constructed in Edmonton. In 2007, Islamic History Month was established by the Federal Government.

Vernon has a relatively small Muslim population, with the first members arriving in the 1960s and ‘70s. In 1999, the Vernon Muslim Association was granted charity status.

Community Initiatives

Despite its small size, the community of around 40 local Muslim families brought about the construction of the Okanagan’s first mosque in 2012. That same year, the Vernon & District Immigrant & Community Services Society launched their Inter-Faith Bridging Project to bring together people of all faiths in overcoming stereotypes and uniting towards a common goal.

The project’s committee hosted several initiatives over the years, including a group payer session in 2015, in which Syilx Elders offered opening prayers before inviting spiritual leaders from a variety of faiths to offer prayers in their own fashion, and a “Breaking Bread” event in 2016, in which breads from all over the world were displayed and sampled,.

In April of 2017, following the Quebec City mosque shooting which resulted in 6 deaths and 5 non-fatal injuries, the Vernon Muslim Association hosted an information session to condemn the actions of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, as well as to bring awareness to the persecution of Muslims under a guilty-by-association mentality.

Now, in 2022, the local Muslim population continues to attend prayers at the Vernon Mosque & Islamic Center, with this year marking the building’s 10th anniversary.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

A view down a street over the rooftops of houses. A green hillside is visible in the background. A double rainbow is also visible, with the bottom one being much stronger and the top one quite faint.
View of a double rainbow over the rooftops of Vernon’s Foothills development in 2014. Photo by F. Arseneault.

LGBTQ+ History Month

October is LGBTQ+ History Month in Canada, the United States, and Australia. Meanwhile, one local organization that fought against discrimination of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community members was the North Okanagan Gay and Lesbian Organization (NOGLO).

Socializing without fear

NOGLO was founded by Arne Kirkeby and his partner Chris, who arrived in Vernon in the 1990s. They wanted to become part of a community, and so through word-of-mouth organized a dance with other LGBTQ+ couples. The event provided a place for Vernonites to socialize without fear and was a major success, with around 300 attendees. More events would follow in the coming years.

In 2013, NOLGO embarked on a number of projects to raise funds for community events, including a garage sale and the production of a business directory. These projects helped support events like a Halloween Howl later that year, hosted in memory of Chris and other NOGLO members who had passed away. Prizes were offered for the most creative individual and group costumes.

YouthGlo

Brian Webb, a former North Okanagan resident and board member of NOGLO, received the People Choice’s award in the 2012 competition of Mr. Gay Canada. Webb also served as a peer counsellor at YouthGlo, an organization dedicated to helping LGBTQ+ youth in the North Okanagan. In 2013, he founded HomoCulture, a leading online resource that attempts to increase awareness of the interests and values of the LGBTQ+ community across North America.

As for NOGLO, the organization later disbanded, but others have emerged to fill its void, including the Vernon Pride Community who worked tirelessly to host their first Pride event earlier this year. Two former NOGLO members, Dawn Tucker and Susan Armstrong, alongside Madeline Terbasket, will present how the lived experiences of the historically underrepresented 2SLGBTQIA+ community can have more Pride in Place in local museums, archives and other cultural institutions at the Vernon Museum on October 13. Click here to learn more. 

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

A black and white photo of 11 women, some seated on chairs, some in front on the floor, with one standing in the back. They are in a room lined with bookshelves that has brick walls and several large houseplants/.
Members of the National Council of Women in Ottawa in 1898. Lady Aberdeen is in the centre, holding a book. Image courtesy: Topley Studio / Library and Archives Canada / PA-028035

Gender Equality Week

September 18 to 24 is Gender Equality Week in Canada, and this year’s theme was “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities.” In an official statement, the Honourable Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, described the week as a time to “recognize the important progress we’ve made towards gender equality while also recognizing the important work that lies ahead of us.”

a local connection

One organization with local roots that was dedicated to the advancement of women was the National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC). Founded it 1893, it is one of Canada’s oldest advocacy groups, and is still operating from its headquarters in Ottawa. The NCWC, a member of the International Council of Women (ICW), was created by its first president—and former Vernonite—Lady Ishabel Aberdeen.

Lady Aberdeen was the wife of Lord Aberdeen, Canada’s Governor General from 1893 until 1898. When she established the National Council of Women, she was also the president of the ICW. In 1895, Lady Aberdeen established a Vernon Branch of the NCWC, with Addie Cochrane serving as president.

Women’s Suffrage

The NCWC began fighting for women’s suffrage in 1910; however, the NCWC was considered to be an elitist organization by several well-known suffragists, including Nellie McClung, due to its middle-class composition and lack of French Canadians and women of colour.

The case was similar here in Vernon, in that the local branch was mostly made up of women from Vernon’s more wealthy families. However, both the local and national chapters of the Council of Women made important contributions towards gender equality in Canada.

ORGANIZATIONAL ACHEIVEMENTS

One of the most prominent accomplishments of the Vernon branch was the petition for a hospital, which led to the opening of the Vernon Jubilee Hospital in 1909. Meanwhile, the NCWC established the Victorian Order of Nurses to provide at-home nursing care, and supported the rights and opportunities of women in the workforce.

Mysteriously, the local branch of the NCWC virtually disappeared in 1920, and the reason for this is unknown. In 1959, it was resurrected as the Vernon & District Council of Women which operated until 1974 before folding due to low membership numbers. However, since then, other local organizations have continued to protect and promote the rights of women and gender equality for all.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

a group of men and women standing facing the camera. Behind them is a golf course, and on the right is part of a sign that reads "1st tee and range" with an arrow.
A sister city exchange group from Saint-Lambert visiting Vernon in 1992. Included in the picture are Vernonites Patrick Mackie (center, wearing a hat), and then Mayor Wayne McGrath (third from left).
A short, bush-like tree with gnarled branches and dropping leaves outside a brown brick building.
The Weeping Beach donated to the City of Vernon by the City of Saint-Lambert outside the Vernon Museum.

A tree from Saint-Lambert

Outside the Vernon Museum, at the foot of a small gnarled tree, one can find a little plaque that reads “weeping beech donated by Mayor Guy Boissy of Saint-Lambert, Quebec, a Sister City of Vernon, 18 October 1997.” Saint-Lambert, located in southwestern Quebec, is home to more than 20,000 people, and, as the plaque suggests, is one of Vernon’s six sister cities.

The History of Town twinning

A sister city or twin town agreement is made to promote peace and diplomacy and to create cultural and commercial ties between municipalities across borders. The first modern example of town twinning can be traced back to World War Two, when Alfred Robert Grindlay, then Mayor of Coventry, England, demonstrated solidarity for the people of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) in Russia, since both cities were emerging from the wreck of devastating blitz attacks.  

Vernon’s Sister City Committee

At a Vernon City Council meeting on September 1, 1982, an “International Friendship Committee” was established, and a resolution passed that twinned Vernon with its first sister city—Modesto, California.

The Committee later became known as the Sister Cities Committee, and coordinated the twinning of another five municipalities, including Saint-Lambert. The others are Tome, Japan (twinned in 1986), Tavullia, Italy (1993), Frankenburg, Austria (2008), and Anandpur Sahib, India (2012). Over the years, the Committee organized several trips to these sister cities, including a visit to the “Holy City of Bliss” (Anandpur Sahib) in 2016.

Enduring relationships

A testament to Vernon’s enduring relationship with its twin cities can be seen in the form of a wayfinding sign outside of City Hall with the cardinal directions and approximate distances of Tome, Tavullia, Frankenburg, Anandpur Sahib, Saint-Lambert, and Modesto.