french family land
May 28, 2021
Near the entrance to the Vernon Recreation Centre, a humble plaque in the shade of a tall tree memorializes the 1891 residence of S.P. French.
That year, Samuel Phelps French, born in England in 1844, moved his wife Susannah and nine children from Winnipeg to Vernon and purchased between 10 to 20 acres of land to raise cattle.
A warm welcome
The family’s 1891 residence was actually not located where the plaque indicates, but on 32nd Avenue, then known as Schubert Street.
Many important events passed beneath the roof of this residence, and the French family extended a welcome to friends and strangers alike.
In November of 1902, the Vernon News reported that “the hospitable home of Mr. and Mrs. S.P. French was
DA plaque outside the Vernon Recreation Centre memorializes the first two residences of S.P. French (pictured top right, GVMA #5088). The Vernon Museum does not have a photograph of either of the houses.
taxed to it utmost capacity to receive the large number of visitors who during the afternoon and evening assembled to extend a welcome to the bride of Mr. S.P. French, Jr.
changing ownership & land use
It was not until 1905 that S.P. purchased 65 acres near where the Rec Centre now stands from the Estate of the late Luc Girouard and built a second house. By 1914, the land had been parceled up, with some of it being sold to the Canadian Northern Pacific Railway. S.P. then purchased a parcel of land east of Vernon and built a third house, on Sarsons Road. This residence still stands, while the plaque serves as a memorial of the two family homes that came before it.
S.P. helped to lay Vernon’s first sidewalk on 30th Avenue in 1893. He also served on the Vernon City Council in 1903 and was a devout member of the local Presbyterian Church.
names & recognition
S.P. passed away in 1926, predeceased by his wife Susannah in 1912. His nine children and twenty-eight grandchildren went on to have remarkable lives of their own. One son, Percy, even followed in his father’s footsteps and was named the Okanagan’s first “Master Farmer” by Winnipeg’s Nor’ West Farmer Magazine in 1932.
While his son was bestowed with the title “Master Farmer”, the residence of the family of S.P. French family is recognized with a plaque.
Plaques such as this, as well as street names, are often in memory and recognition of the pioneers, agriculturalists and ranchers who first “settled” this area.
In recent years, there has been more of an acknowledgment of Syilx place names, and the nsyilixcen language of the Syilx people of the Okanagan Nation is being incorporated into place names and signs in places such as the UBC Okanagan campus.