Early Missionaries in the Okanagan

Christine Semeniuk//Social Studies 9//Block G

History of Early Missionaries in the Okanagan Valley


  • 1847 - Fur trade died down,
-Catholic Church needed presence in the new land, turned to France for help
  • late 1847 - Father Pandosy part of small oblate group, left France to establish missionaries in the New World
-worked among the Yamaka tribe, taught them how to farm and baptized them

-eventually was some conflict between tribe and settlers, and settlers could no longer stay in the American territories

  • Summer 1858 - Washington missionaries went to Esquimalt, Vancouver Island
-Pandosy stayed the winter and began planning a B.C. settlement

-In spring, gathered those willing to attempt a settlement and followed the Okanagan Fur Brigade Trail to the South side of Okanagan Lake

-were first permanent settlers moving through, caused unrest among First Nations

  • Fall 1859 - travelled along East side of Okanagan Lake to Duck Lake, declared new site of mission
-suffered through bitterly cold winter, scarce game, and lack of preparation
  • Spring 1859 - area too marshy, relocated to higher ground
-permanently settled near modern day Mission Creek

-built small log house with sleeping quarters on top floor and a church on the bottom

-named Mission of the Immaculate Conception on L'Anse au Sable (Sandy Cove)

-noticed agricultural potential of surrounding land

-Mission continued to have much success and influence in the development of the Okanagan, up until the early 1880's

  • 1885 - CP Railway completed, Kamloops was nearest connection
  • 1895 - Oblates moved Catholic Headquarters to Kamloops
  • 1896 - Okanagan Mission sold
-was run by Father Eumelin
  • 1902 - Okanagan Mission officially closed


The early missionaries were responsible for having the first permanent non-native settlement in the Okanagan Valley. Previously, groups like miners and fur traders inhabited the area, but the missionaries led by Father Pandosy remained indefinitely. After conflict between the First Peoples and oblate missionaries became too high for Father Pandosy and his people to remain in the Oregon Valley area, they travelled North in spring of 1859 where they settled near modern day Mission Creek. It was this group that realized the agricultural potential of the Okanagan. They also had the first buildings that would be a part of developing Kelowna such as the church on the bottom floor of their living quarters. Father Pandosy, in an effort to better integrate into the land of the First Nations, taught them important skills in the developing area like building and growing crops. The early missionaries gave the Okanagan the initial start to becoming a major settlement by establishing buildings and agriculture. They were the first steady foreign inhabitants that spent enough time and money to develop the area.

Role of okanagan fur brigade trail in development

The Okanagan Fur Brigade Trail provided the early missionaries with direct access to the Okanagan Valley. When looking for a new place to settle, Father Pandosy followed the trail previously used by First Nations Peoples to several spots along Okanagan and Duck Lakes, braving the harsh conditions of Canadian winters before arriving at the perfect spot for a permanent settlement. However, the settlement would not have prospered as it did had the Okanagan Fur Brigade Trail not also provided a route for Kelowna's first homesteaders, orchardists, and cattle ranchers who were attracted by the Mission's establishment. The trail gave access to first the missionaries who gave the Okanagan the push it needed to become profitable and inhabitable by European settlers, and later those settlers also using the trail to come to the Okanagan kept the establishment growing and gaining strength.

Early European Profile: Father Pandosy

Early History

Father Pandosy was from a family of wealthy landowners in France. He was born in Marseilles in 1884, and was raised in France. Later, he studied a the Bourbon College of Aries. Despite his rich upbringing, he took vows of poverty and servitude as an Oblate Juniorate of Lumineres in 1845, and worked as a missionary in the Oregon area until 1858 previous to his Okanagan excursions.

Reasons for Settlement in the okanagan valley

The Catholic Church wanted a presence in the New Land (modern day North America) to compete with the growing Protestant presence. Turning to France for help, missionaries were sent to Oregon, including Father Pandosy. Tensions between the missionaries and the First Nations people caused Father Pandosy to take initiative to avoid conflict and instead explore North to find new land to settle. The fertile land they discovered there caused them to stay and develop what would become modern day Kelowna.

early accomplishments outside of Okanagan

Father Pandosy was very young when he was assigned as a missionary on the Pacific West Coast of North America in the Oregon territories. Before that he had extensive schooling in France as a member of the Oblate Catholics. 23 years old, during the intense fighting of the Cayuse War, Father Pandosy became the first priest in the area of the Oregon territories to become an ordained minister.

Accomplishments in okanagan valley

Father Pandosy is perhaps most well known in the Okanagan for establishing the first non-native settlement in the area, but his accomplishments go far beyond. He was the person who realized the agricultural potential of the Okanagan, and planted some of the first fruit trees and grape vines. His influence also played a large roll when he continued to convince people to come to the new settlement and contribute to its development.


The site of the Okanagan Mission is still standing to this day, and is maintained as a historical site, administrated by the Okanagan Historical Site and the Catholic Church. If Father Pandosy had not established his mission in the Okanagan, the agricultural potential of our rich lands may never have been realized, and the Kelowna we know and inhabit would have been drastically different without his European influences.

Impact of Early europeans on growth and development of the Okanagan valley

The impact Father Pandosy and his missionaries had on the growth and development of the Okanagan Valley was that he led a group of missionaries from the Oregon Trail area to what is modern day Kelowna. He persevered through harsh conditions and failure to eventually establish the first non-native settlement in the Okanagan. Upon settling his men, he also discovered the exceptionally fertile soil of The Okanagan Valley and put a start to two of the most crucial exports of the Okanagan - fruit and wine. At times, the missionaries and First Peoples had trouble co-existing in the Okanagan Valley, the effects of which we still feel today as we work to rectify the mistreatment of the First Peoples, but Father Pandosy opened doors for people like Giovanni Casorso who worked with the traditions of the original people in the Okanagan Valley, and the development of the region we know today continued.

interesting facts

  • Father Pandosy baptized 121 people in his time as a priest
  • Father Pandosy was known in France for his exceptional singing voice
  • Father Pandosy's other duties on the settlement included figuring out how to irrigate crops, and building a root cellar

Picture Gallery

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Map of Original Area of missionaries

The original area of Father Pandosy's permanent settlement was along Mission Creek, where they found fertile land, but it came with harsh winter living conditions.
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Map of Area in the Modern Day

Now, the site of Father Pandosy's misison has been restored and preserved, and is now a historical site with access along Casorso Road.
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Picture of father pandosy

Here, Father Pandosy is pictured in his later years in traditional priest's clothing.