Okanagan Explosion: Final Task

By: Kayla Smart

History of the Cattle Ranchers in the Okanagan Valley

At the beginning of the cattle ranch, there were more cattle in Oregon than there were buyers. Cattle drives followed the old fur brigade trail through the Okanagan and continued on to the caribou goldfields. In the early 1860s, old Hudson bay men and drovers began settling along the Thompson River near the Fort at Kamloops. A man by the name of Cornelius O'Keefe decided he could make more money raising cattle instead of driving them all the way from Oregon. As mines developed in the boundary and Kootenay area, Thomas Ellis, another Irishman, and J.C Hayes, a custom officer who took payment in cattle when the drovers didn't have cash and they accumulated even larger acreages in South Okanagan. During the unusually severe winter of 1878/1880 , thousands of cattle starved to death. The ranchers realized that they needed to grow more hay. In 1880, they finally started building the Canadian Pacific Railway. 5000 men constructed the line between Yale and Savona- which was about 175 miles, and the demand for beef was so great that even the large groups like Douglas Lake Cattle Company in the Nicola Valley couldn't meet the railways demands. Cattle scales provided the ranchers with the money need to buy land. The Okanagan Ranchers saw an opportunity closer to home and opened their own butcher shops in the lower mainland to provide for the growing numbers of settlers now heading west.

importance of the fur brigade trail

The fur brigade trails had been paving the way for settlement by developing the main travel routes. The trail along the west of Okanagan Lake to a point near its northern end and in 1864, an estimated 14,000 head of cattle, horses and sheep were imported.

Cornelius O'Keefe

Cornelius O'Keefe was a man who was determined to make something of his life. Not only did he just raise cattle, he was the first rancher in the North Okanagan to open a general store on his property. His ranch became a gathering place for new people to the Okanagan Valley and soon was being called "Okanagan."

reasons for settlement

Cornelius came west in his early 20’s and began to drive cattle from Oregon to provide food for the gold miners in the north. He camped on the site of the Ranch, and decided to raise cattle rather than drive them from Oregon. Cornelius pre-empted 161 acres of land. By the early 1900’s, with Thomas Greenhow, a business partner, the ranch had grown to 15,000 acres.

early accomplishments and accomplishments in the okanagan valley

In 1862, Cornelius O'Keefe travelled west via the isthmus of panama because he heard of gold in British Columbia. after an unsuccessful attempt at gold mining in the caribou, he worked on the construction of the caribou road between Clinton and Bridge Creek, later on, he also helped built 115 mile house.


On August 14, 1872, a post office was established with Cornelius being the postmaster which was a position that he held for the next 40 years.in 1886, Cornelius went into a partnership with Thomas wood and had 180 heads of cattle. the pair then joined with Thomas Greenhow. in 1881, Wood had relocated his ranch but the partnership between O'Keefe and Greenhow remained intact. in mid 1890s the O'Keefe ranch had reached about 12000 acres of land and raised cattle sheep and had large acreages of wheat

legacy today

There were several ranchers who settled ahead of O'Keefe, his is the only ranch that was still being lived in by the original family 100 years later. Today some of the oldest buildings in the valley are still being used and preserved as part of the O'Keefe Ranch heritage site. his legacy lives on today at the O'Keefe ranch in Vernon, BC.

Interesting Facts

Thomas married Cornelius’ niece Elizabeth who came for a visit and they purchased 10 acres of land next to the log house so the two families could remain close.

Driving Question

What was the Impact of the Early Europeans on the Growth and Development of the Okanagan Valley?

Cattle ranchers have made a huge impact in the gortwth of the okanagan valley. Cornelius O'Keefe was someone that made many contributions to the valley. He came to valley when he heard about the gold in British Columbia. He soon realized he wasn't very good at mining so he opened te first general store in the area. His ranch soon grew more and more over the course of the years. His ranch is still in use today as a historical site in Vernon. People can go visit and learn about the land. O'keefe was an extremely important addition to the growth of the okanagan valley and still is, as his legacy lives on at his ranch in Vernon,BC.