A wooden cross with trees in the background. The cross reads "Stewart Bain Electrocuted Nov 23 1913 Age 24"
Stewart Bain’s cross, photographed by Nancy Josland Dalsin and courtesy of FindAGrave.

A sad Story

A lonely cross tucked in a quiet corner of Vernon’s Pleasant Valley Cemetery reveals a sad story. On November 23, 1913, 24-year-old Stewart Bain was electrocuted while working on a power pole at the corner of 32nd Street and Coldstream Avenue, and was killed instantly.

Stewart was born on May 1, 1888, in Nova Scotia; in the 1901 Canadian Census, he is recorded as the adopted son of 78-year-old Ronald McDonald. In 1911, he was boarding in Hants, Nova Scotia, and working as a Blacksmith.

A silver lining

By 1913, he was working as part of a Vancouver Electric Company crew that traveled to Vernon to work for the City.

An inquest after his death determined that he had accidentally come in contact with a live wire while performing his work. His funeral was held 10 days later, and it is said that all electric linemen and groundmen in the city’s employ were in attendance. Although he had only been in Vernon for a few months, Stewart Bain was well-respected, made evident by an outpouring of floral tributes.

This tragedy did have a silver lining, though, as the investigations into the incident led to a tightening of safety protocols for electric workers across the province.


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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives





For the summer months, 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 sepia image of a multi-story house, taken from the side, and mostly concealed by trees and shrubs.
The Vernon College building, at this point already redubbed as the Cochrane House. Photographed in 1906.

Amid Vernon’s social and technological advancements of the 1890s, many minds turned to the future generations already planting roots in the city. Would they have what they needed to live full, prosperous lives? What would entice them to move in and stay in? It became apparent that for the city to fulfill its potential as an Okanagan hub, local education begged improvement – specifically, it required the development of a solid post-secondary institution. In 1892, Frederick A. Meyer stepped up to the challenge and founded Vernon Private College.

Right idea, rIGHT tIME (MAYBE)

Multiple factors led Meyer to believe Vernon College would thrive. He saw the area’s mild climate and growing community as components of an inevitable “education centre,” or scholarly hotspot. Advertisements for the school were ambitiously welcoming (and in hindsight, unflinchingly sexist) and stated that “the college is intended for young men desirous to study for any of the professions or public examinations.” Subjects such as book-keeping, painting, and science were points of pride, and those of mathematics, foreign languages, and drawing were also promoted.

 As both founder and principal, Meyer ran the establishment with seemingly little help, at least by today’s standards. Additionally, the staff’s teaching credentials were suspiciously undermentioned, as in the following quote from a newspaper article: “Should anyone wish to take up any special class of work not mentioned, Mr. Meyer or one of his assistants will be only too pleased to instruct them.” The sky, apparently, was the limit. Nonetheless, Vernon College seemed set up for success. The first term began on Jan. 8, 1893, with options to board (and take advantage of Mrs. Meyer’s cooking), attend night classes, or book private lessons. Over the next few years, the school even set up its own student awards, including a Warden’s prize for classics: Latin and Greek.


Meyer’s background was never much discussed in the school’s advertisements. Publicly, his teaching credentials were as elusive as the rest of the staff’s; however, his life experiences actually made him one of the most qualified people for the job. Meyer was originally from England, and while young he began working for the shipping trade between his home country and China. Later, he settled in Japan, where he spent twenty years as the headmaster of the Japanese Royal Naval College. His work earned him the Order of the Rising Sun from the Emperor, an award that required the Queen’s permission to be bestowed upon a British subject.

Like a pair of dedicated soulmates, Meyer and Vernon College met their end within years of each other. The college building was soon transformed into the Cochrane House, and by 1906, it was up for sale. Meyer died from apoplexy on Sept. 1, 1908, after falling into a coma – right at the beginning of the school year. It is unclear why Vernon College lasted so few years. Perhaps it simply changed form and moved elsewhere. From the records of its existence, though, it seemed a brilliant flame that simply burned a little too bright.

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

Rebeka Beganova, Collections Intern



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!

Vernon Jubilee Hospital staff photographed in 1915. Dr. Duncan sits on the far right of the middle row. Beside him is Dr. Arbuckle, who often filled his shoes when Dr. Duncan was out of town.

George Edward Duncan

Dr. George Edward Duncan (1870-1947) was one of Vernon’s earliest City Medical Health officers. Originally from Dublin, Ireland, he practiced medicine all throughout BC. He also served overseas in WWI, as part of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps. Looking down the archive’s long list of ‘Early Doctors, Vernon & Area,’ Dr. Duncan’s profile does not jump out as particularly monumental. However, if you chanced upon the collection of newspaper articles mentioning his name, you might be struck by the curious assortment of local events that Dr. Duncan had his sterilized hands in. In fact, his portfolio reads bizarrely like a series of superhero comics, where the titular character – complete with a pleasingly alliterate moniker – emerges inexplicably onto scenes of local trouble. We give you, Dr. Duncan of Vernon.

The Tragic Death of sir Edmund Lacon

This legitimate title from a 1911 newspaper could grace the front cover of Dr. Duncan’s first mystery novel. Sir Lacon met his end in the first fatal automobile accident ever reported in the Okanagan. On September 28, 1911, on Mission Road, an overturned car was discovered with seemingly no body nearby. The article detailing the resulting series of events is written like a proper detective story, littered with phrases such as “last seen here about 6:30” and “thought he heard something like a groan.”

Dr. Duncan appeared in both the action-packed inciting incident and the ensuing inquest. At the initial discovery of the toppled automobile, he was fetched from the drug store and materialized with (of all the quintessential ghost story props) a lantern to light the way. It was he who found the injured Sir Lacon by the roadside and witnessed the man’s death as he carried him to the car. During the inquest, Dr. Duncan’s hard-hitting evidence was reportedly the touchstone of truth that overrode other accounts. Fittingly enough, the conclusion to the article photocopy is obscured by a mystifying dark stain.


The CASE of the miserable milk

Dr. Duncan next crops up in a gripping local storyline centering on milk: specifically, its insufficient quality and abundance. In November of 1911, the Marvelous MD published a report analyzing the ingredients in milk from various suppliers. By revealing less-than-ideal percentages of butter fat and water, he proved instrumental in the creation of a by-law ensuring quality milk for every Vernon household. Some subpar suppliers were consequently cut off, but even after complaints were voiced about declining delivery rates, one Board of Health representative said he would rather never taste another drop “than drink the stuff they had before the by-law was passed.” Dr. Duncan’s analytical mind seemed just as valiant to citizens as his court room wits.

Vernon held a certain appreciation for its understated hero. The sentiment is evident through other subplots, such as public debates for his pay rise and motions to send him to the prodigious Canadian Public Health Congress. Even when Dr. Duncan relocated to Vancouver, the papers sent him off with enough good cheer to constitute a happy ending.


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

Rebeka Beganova, Collections Intern



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 black-and-white image of a man with a beard and wearing a hat looking down at a piece of wood in his hands.
Allan Brooks photographed ca. 1925

This famed ornithologist and artist has secured his rightful place in Vernon’s history. Those who know of Allan Brooks from his local reputation alone may envision him as an all-around nature lover, at one with the landscapes and wildlife of the Okanagan. However, this peaceful image overlooks the pragmatic edge to Brooks’ character. His views on nature preservation were much more complex than a simple slogan of “protect the animals.”

The Problem at Hand

Brooks’ methodology directly opposed the theory of the “balance of nature.” This theory states that without human interference, the natural interactions between predator and prey will maintain the balance between overpopulation and extinction. Brooks’ disagreement stemmed from the fact that predators are a lot less reserved than people then understood. Many are bloodthirsty, he claimed – relentless. In one lecture he pointed to the house wren, a bird that enjoys burying hatchlings under piles of sticks to starve them.

His proposed approach to wildlife preservation was to actively eliminate predators; not trust that they will die off at their own pace, but hire trappers and hunters to keep them at bay, for the sake of the survival of smaller animals. Not only was this concept shocking to animal lovers, but it also went against an age-old ideology that was so accepted, it was being taught at universities.

Spreading the word

In the 1920s and 30s, Brooks set out on a mission to project his message as far as it could reach. On March 17, 1924, he addressed the public at All Saints Parish Hall with a lecture revealing the intricacies of bird life. His talk then turned to the problem of vicious bird predators and the unsettling reality that in the untouched wilderness – where perfect harmony was supposed to exist – dwindling numbers of precious species were furrowing scientists’ brows. Brooks’ speech was so compelling that the audience mourned it did not fall on more ears.

Later that same year, he lectured at a meeting of the Vernon and District Fish and Game Protective Association. This time, the speech outwardly focused on the predator problem. Brooks is recorded as stating, with perhaps characteristic wit, that those inclined to protect nature’s killers “had about as much ground to stand on as would anyone who wanted to protect the potato bug or the onion maggot as being necessary to our well-being.” In 1933 he spoke before the Women’s Canadian Club, and finally, on October 28, 1937, Brooks abandoned all subtlety and published an article in The Vernon News clearly outlining his strict prescription for the flourishing of wildlife, titled “The Predator Must Go.” In the end, it is not clear how many minds Brooks managed to convince. What is clear is that Brooks took his role as a wildlife ambassador seriously enough to make sacrifices and ruffle feathers.

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

Rebeka Beganova, Collections Intern




A black and white photo of three individuals on bikes passing through a parking lot. A boy wearing a t-shirt and long light-coloured pants is walking in the middle. In the background one can see cars and individuals walking behind the cyclists.
Cyclists rallying before a memorial service for the late Jack Schratter in 1994. It was partially Jack’s tragic cycling-related accident that inspired his son Michael Schratter to embark on the first ever Ride Don’t Hide campaign in 2010.

A Canadian-Wide Event with Local Roots

This June, thousands of cyclists across Canada will come together to raise awareness and funds for the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

This event, which is in its 13th year, has local roots. In 2010, Michael Schratter, born and raised in Vernon, embarked on a worldwide bicycle trip that saw him cover 40,000 km and raise $100,000 for the CMHA. He called his campaign “Ride Don’t Hide,” in an effort to stimulate conversation and overcome some of the stigma surrounding mental health conditions.

Michael Schratter

Michael has openly shared his experiences with hypomania, a mild form of bipolar, and ADHD. In a 2011 interview with Vancouver Magazine, Michael stated that, in terms of personal courage, his around-the-world trip was nothing in comparison to engaging in conversations with friends and colleagues about mental health. “Yet one in five people will be treated for some form of mental illness in their lifetimes, and virtually everyone is affected by it,” he said.

Michael was also inspired to begin this campaign to honour his late father, Jack Schratter. Jack was a popular professor of physics and mathematics at Okanagan College who was known to “arrive early, stay late, and always be available to students.” In 1993, Jack sadly passed away in a cycling-related incident.

Jack Schratter

In a Vernon News article published shortly after his passing, one of Jack’s former students, Lyn Hartley, suggested that “there is hope coming out of such a tragic loss. The hope lies in knowing students of Jack are strung out across the province, country and world. Each of us taking a little bit of Jack’s inspiration and passing it on to others.”

Following in their father’s footsteps, both Michael and his brother Ed have also inspired Canadians across the Country, but this time with their commitment to destigmatizing mental health. Since its origins in 2010, the Ride Don’t Hide campaign has morphed into a nation-wide movement.

a blue and green graphic with the words "Ride Don't Hide. Ride for your mental health, raise funds for your community."


The CMHA is the most extensive community mental health organization in Canada, providing “programs, advocacy and resources that help prevent mental health problems and illnesses, support recovery and resilience, and enable all Canadians to flourish and thrive.” The Vernon branch of the CMHA will be hosting this year’s local Ride Don’t Hide at Polson Park on September 16, 2023. Click here to learn more.


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!





A black-and-white image of a group of men standing outside a fire hall. There are 7 men pictured and three trunks behind them.
VFD staff outside the fire hall, then located at 3005 30 Street, in 1952. Fred Little is pictured in the middle, wearing glasses. The new ladder truck can be seen behind him.

Ladder Truck BYLAW

In 1951, the city’s taxpayers were asked to vote on an important bylaw that would see a new ladder truck purchased for the Vernon Fire Department (VFD).

While this might nowadays seem like a no-brainer, at the time it did require some effort on the part of the VFD to convince Vernonites that this was a necessary purchase. Vernon had only a few multi-story buildings at the time, so some likely felt that the $38,000 cost to purchase the truck was a needless expense, considering that the VFD already had a truck with a ladder in its possession.  

But Chief Fred Little disagreed. In letter addressed to the city’s taxpayers, he argued that a new ladder truck was a vital piece of equipment, since the old one was already 17 years old, and practically obsolete. The new truck would be equipped with state-of-the-art supplies, including metal ladders of various lengths, a 150-gallon water tank, night lighting facilities, protective equipment, and a variety of fire hoses and nozzles.


At the end of the letter, signed anonymously as “your volunteer firemen,” Little urged the public to vote “yes” at the upcoming bylaw, saying “a vote for the Ladder Truck Bylaw is a vote for your safety as well as ours.” On March 2, 954 taxpayers came out to vote. The bylaw passed 632 to 329 (with two spoiled ballots).

By October of that year, the new fire truck arrived in Vernon. It was constructed by the Bickle-Seagrave Company in Woodstock, Ontario, and was shipped to Vernon by train. A photo in theVernon News shows Chief Little beaming with pride over this new piece of equipment.


Unfortunately, the fire department quickly discovered that the truck was actually too big for the fire hall! It passed through the doors easily enough, but an uneven floor designed on an angle for draining purposes meant that it couldn’t quite make it underneath a steel beam running the width of the hall. But the VFD was quick to pivot, and dug channels into the concrete floor for the rear wheels of the truck to nestle into.

Finally, the VFD had a truck with a ladder high enough to handle fire-fighting rescues in any building in Vernon.   


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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives






Two black and white images. One shows a classroom with five girls seated at desks working on artwork. Artwork is also hung up on the walls. The other photo shows Miss Jessie Topham Brown. She has white hair and glass with thick black frames and she is wearing a striped collar shirt with pearls.
An undated photo of a class at Miss Jessie’s art studio; (inset) a portrait of Miss Jessie in the 1970s.

International Women’s Day

March 8 was International Women’s Day. One woman who had a particularly important influence on the local art scene was Miss Jessie Topham Brown.

Miss Jessie immigrated to Canada from England in 1909, and later arrived in Vernon in 1916. She began working at the St. Michael’s Boarding School for Girls, located on East Hill, as a cook, coach, and art teacher. After World War One, she started teaching at the Vernon Preparatory School, and in the summers, offered art classes for both children and adults from a camp on Okanagan Lake near the Killiney Wharf.

Summer Art Camps

Those who attended these camps would pack out their supplies on horseback, and spend several days sleeping beneath the stars and painting during waking hours. The groups would sometimes venture to other locations, including the Mara and Shuswap Lakes, to capture different landscapes.

Described as a “paragon of the arts,” Miss Jessie had been exposed to creative pursuits since childhood, having spent three years at the Slade School of Art at University College, and although she did not paint much herself, loved cultivating the talents of others.

Art Studio and Art Gallery

Miss Jessie later opened her own studio on 32nd Street, which she then moved to the former Post Office building at 30th Avenue and 30th Street. Besides drawing and painting, she also taught pottery, weaving and silk screening until her retirement in 1967. Many of Miss Jessie’s former students went on to be accomplished artists, one of whom was Joan Heriot, good friend to fellow artist Sveva Caetani.

Miss Jessie was also integral in creating a facility to house a permanent collection of local artwork. The Topham Brown Public Art Gallery was originally located in the top floor of the Vernon Museum (now used as a storage space for artifacts); it later moved to its current location at 3228 31st Avenue, around the same time as its name was changed to the Vernon Public Art Gallery. To honour Miss Jessie’s contribution, the main gallery at the VPAG continues to be known as the Topham Brown Memorial Gallery.

In 1971, “in recognition of her service, contribution, influence and encouragement in the field of the arts to all residents,” Miss Jessie was granted Freedom of the City. She passed away a few years later, in 1974, at the age of 92.


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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives






A man is seated at the front of a small, open glider. He is smiling at the camera.

Fred Little on the open pilot’s seat at the front of the glider he built with Frank Oliver in 1932. Photo courtesy of Warren Little.

A race to the skies

Eldon Seymour and Jim Duddle were not Vernon’s only dynamic duo of intrepid aviators; around the same time the two young teenagers were building their open cockpit airplane in the loft of the Kalamalka Lake Store, Fred Little and Frank Oliver were gliding through the sky in their own creation. Thank you to Fred’s son Warren for supplying the information and photos for this story.

A large frame of a glider under construction in an empty room. A space heater is nearby.
The glider under construction circa 1932. Photo courtesy of Warren Little.

The Work Begins

When Fred and Frank were in their early twenties, they began building a glider in the kitchen of Fred’s family home. At the time, Fred was a professional mechanic, and was employed by Watkin Motors in Vernon (he later went on to serve the City as Fire Chief and was named the 1969 Good Citizen of the Year). Frank, meanwhile, was a businessman, the owner of Specialty Cleaners.

Once complete, the glider was flown from Vernon’s first airfield, located in the Mission Hill area. This take-off location was ideal, because updraft winds from Kalamalka Lake allowed for long flights in the glider.


Successful first flight

Local flying instructor Lowell Dunsmore piloted the first flight of the 32-foot Northrop Standard on June 12, 1932. On the second of three attempts, the Ford Model A towing car reached about 65 km/h. The glider soared into the air and hovered a steady ten feet above the airstrip before Dunsmore released the tow cord and brought it to a gentle landing. The following Tuesday, Fred and Frank performed another five successful flights in their aircraft.

Not to be outdone, Eldon Seymour and Jim Duddle also saw their own homemade glider successfully piloted by Lowell Dunsmore a few weeks later, and launched the City of Vernon airplane the following year. While the latter may have been the first home-built aircraft in Vernon with an engine, Fred and Frank owned and constructed the first glider in the B.C. Interior.   

The glider went on to have many successful flights but was unfortunately later wrecked by a winter snow storm that collapsed its top.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator







Two teenagers set their sights high

In 1933, a couple of Vernon teenagers began construction on an open cockpit airplane (CF-AOM). Two years later, the plane, named the City of Vernon, took its first flight.

Jim Duddle and Eldon Seymour were 18 and 17, respectively, when they started their project in the loft of the Kalamalka Lake Store (now the Rail Trail Café & Market). The boys purchased the plans from a magazine, and sourced materials from an American supplier since they could not locate a Canadian one. 

With financial assistance from flight enthusiast Jack Taylor, and welding expertise from former airframe mechanic Ernie Buffum, the plane was constructed for a grand total of $1463.00. It took the boys 10 months, since they could only work on it during evenings and weekends.

The City of Vernon Takes off

The City of Vernon took off for the first time in June of 1935. The brave man who agreed to test it was a local flying instructor, Lowell Dunsmore, whose successful career had produced a number of pilots, including Charles Grey, the first for the RCMP. After one quick inspection, he hopped in and took it for a spin, finding that it handled beautifully.

After Dunsmore gave the plane his stamp of approval, Jim and Eldon passed a happy three years of unlicensed flying all over the province and across the Rocky Mountains. The plane was also used for search and rescue missions, photo reconnaissance, and timber cruising. It was Vernon’s first home-built aircraft.

Joyride through the skies

In 1941, the Canadian government suspended private flights, which put an end to James and Eldon’s joyride through the skies. But both boys maintained their love of flying, with Eldon going on to receive his pilot’s license and Jim joining the air force.

In later years, the City of Vernon was partially dismantled and sold to a collector in Spokane for $50.00.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator