Ranching in the Okanagan Valley

Thomas koehle BLK H

The beginning of ranching

Ranching in the okanagan valley first started really started around 1860 when Cornelius O'keefe though that it would be cheaper to raise cattle in the valley rather than drive them up from orgeon. Other people such as J.C Haynes and Tom Ellis also were raising cattle around that time near Father Pandosy mission. There were many other small ranchers spread across the vally that sold there stock to the miners passing through. When the gold fever died in the Cariboo all the men came down south and due to the great demand of beef the rancher did very well on selling the beef to the hungry miners. As the years progressed the ranchers started using the fur brigade trail as a route to drive there cattle up and down the Valley. this also helped with the overall growth of the Okanagan valley due to many people using the brigade trail. Once the railway was established it provided a faster route to the near by city's and town. With the railway came construction workers that needed to be feed and this caused the ranching industry to flourish.

The Fur Brigade Trail and Ranching

The fur Brigade trail played a large role in the development of ranching. The ranchers would use the trail as a route to drive there cattle up and down the valley. Along the way the ranchers would stop for the night and let the cattle graze. There wasn't just cattle driven on the trail, sheep, goats and sometimes pigs were pushed up the trail to the cariboo. The fur brigade trail played a very big role in the development of ranching.

Early European profile

Cornelius O'Keefe

Early history

Cornelius O'Keefe was an early cattle driver who came to Kelowna from Fallowfeild, Ontario. He was born on July 26, 1838 and died in 1919 near present day Vernon. He was the first postmaster in the Okanagan valley and also the first rancher to own and operate a general store. He owned over 960 acres of prime bottom land. He came to BC because he heard of the discovery of gold and after an unsuccessful attempt at mining in the Cariboo, he helped build the 115 mile house. Cornelius O'Keefe thought that it would be cheaper to raise cattle in the valley rather than drive them up from Orgeon. So he settled in the area currently known as Vernon and established the O'Keefe ranch in 1867. It was a small self-contained community with a Post Office, general store, blacksmith shop, grist mill, a church and cemetery. The ranch still exists today as a historic sight.

Why they came

Cornelius O'Keefe came to the Okanagan valley when he had the idea that it would be more cost effective to raise cattle rather than drive them up from Orgean. His first interest in BC was when he heard about the discovery of gold. He was unsuccessful in the mining industry so he turned to ranching.

Accomplishments and his Legacy

When he came to the Okanagan valley from Fallowfeild, Ontario Cornelius settled in present day Vernon. He owned over 960 acres of prime land and on which he established the O'Keefe ranch in 1867. It was a small self-contained community with a Post Office (the only in the valley), general store, blacksmith shop, grist mill, a church and cemetery. The ranch still stands today and is marked as a historic sight. The ranch became the official site of the Okanagan post office in 1872 Cornelius also became the first postmaster in the area. While there were other ranchers who settled before Cornelius, his ranch is the only one that was still being lived in by the original family 100 years later.

Interesting facts

One interesting fact is that Cornelius O'Keefe is my great-great grandpa. My grandpa grew up on the O'Keefe ranch and he has told me many cool stories about what the life was like. When our grade 3 class went to the ranch for a field trip, there was a picture of the whole family and in there was me, my parents and the entire side of the O'Keefe family.
Another interseting fact that i found was that Cornelius met a member of the local first nation tribe named Rosie. They would have 2 children together, a boy and a girl.

Driving question

How did the early Europeans impact the growth and development of the Okanagan Valley?


The Europeans who settled and established the Okanagan valley had a huge impact on the overall growth of the valley because they settled and expanded the area with all there settlements. For example when Father Pandosy planted the first fruit tress it started a huge craze and a new industry. That is a major thing and that puts kelowna on the tourism map it the beautiful orchards of fruit and grapes. When the first ranchers came and settled they brought along beef which was and still is a favored food by all coming through the valley. All the miners and people using the fur brigade trail stopped and bought some meat to eat. Then the next thing leads to the next and like the place they stopped at so they decide to move there family to this beautiful valley. This is what happened during those times and that was one of the reasons why kelowna has prospered as a city.

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This is the present day land where the O'Keefe ranch was located
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this is a picture of then old okeefe ranch