You must know a little Okanagan history to really appreciate this
beautiful region of British Columbia.
The historic facts you learn here are what has made the Okanagan what it is today.
I would like to begin the history of the Okanagan in the 1800s. Of course a lot happened before this time but this is when the first non-native settlers arrived here.
Ancestors of the Interior Salish Indians came thousands of years ago and some of their traditions still continue to the present day.
David Stuart and Ovid de Montigny were the first white traders to have been recorded traveling into the Okanagan Valley.
In 1810 the North West Company, a fur trading company, was pushing through British Columbia in search of fur and trade routes with the natives.
In 1858 the first wagon train passed through the Okanagan Valley. These train of wagons were called the Palmer and Miller expedition.
The wagons were filled with merchandise on the American side and came up through the Columbia region to the Okanagan.
In 1859 a Catholic mission, led by Father Charles Pandosy, established the first white settlement in the Okanagan. The Pandosy Mission in Kelowna is now a museum which is run by the Catholic Church and The Okanagan Historical Society.
The Pandosy Mission was also the site of the first school in the Okanagan Valley.
This was just the beginning in a long and storied Okanagan history.
An important part of Okanagan history is the transportation that was first used to get around the area. The stage coach was very popular in maneuvering around the valley.
In 1872 mail service began in the Okanagan and stage coach drivers were used to transport the mail. Of course in the winter months when the snow began to fly the mail carriers switched to sleighs.
Now that sounds like a lot of fun!
Lake travel was something else that was needed to get from one side of Okanagan Lake to the other. In 1883 Captain T.D. Shorts started freighting goods on his rowboat "Ruth Shorts". The first steamboat on Okanagan Lake was the "Mary Victoria".
The first boat on Skaha Lake was the S.S. Miramichi in 1893. Also in 1893 the first Sternwheeler, the SS Aberdeen, was launched to bring people across the lake into the South Okanagan.
A big part of BC history was the building of the Canadian Pacific Railroad . It was promised to link British Columbia with the rest of the provinces and helped BC join Canada Confederation in 1871.
Consrtuction of the BC section of the railway began in May 1880. The final spike driven into the Canadian Pacific Railway was at Craigellec, BC on Nov. 7, 1885. This is located at Eagle Pass summit between Sicamous in the Shuswap region and Revelstoke in the Kootenay region of British Columbia.
I have stopped here on several occasions in my travels through this area. It is quite the tourist attraction and a very historic spot in Okanagan history and BC history.
In 1892 the Canadian Pacific Railway built the Shuswap and Okanagan Railway which ran from Sicamous through to Okanagan Landing at the head of Okanagan Lake in Vernon, BC. Sicamous became known as the entrance to the Okanagan Valley.
Another huge part of Okanagan history was the building of the Okanagan Lake Bridge in 1958. It was a floating pontoon bridge and was the first of its kind in Canada.
The bridge connected the Westside area across Okanagan Lake to Kelowna on the eastern side. This was a major transportation link in the Okanagan Valley and helped make travel between North and South much easier.
Construction on a new bridge, the William R. Bennett Bridge, was completed in 2008. On a personal note I kind of miss the old bridge as I drove over it many a time in my travels through the Okanagan.
But for all you locals and visitors that have sat in long line ups in the Summer months I am sure you appreciate this new bridge. It has definitely relieved some of the traffic messes the area used to experience.
Air travel is another story in Okanagan history. An air balloon was unveiled at the Armstrong Fair in 1908. The first powered flight in the Okanagan was a biplane aircraft flown by William A Starke of Vancouver, BC in 1914 at the Armstrong Fair.
A Curtiss biplane was flown from Vancouver, BC to Kelowna, BC to perform at the Kelowna Regatta in 1919.
The first airport in the Okanagn Valley was opened in 1947. It was called "Ellison Field" and had a small terminal and a small airstrip. In 1960 The Kelowna International Airport expanded and attracted more air traffic from the bigger airlines.
1997 the airport was one of the fastest growing in all of North
America. This prompted even more expansion and now it is one of the
busiest airports in Canada.
People have always had a passion for reading or listening to local and world news. There were several options for communicating this throughout Okanagan history.
The communities and cities of the Okanagan Valley each began printing newspapers to meet this demand for news.
These are some of the early newspapers and the dates they began operations:
Radio was also a factor in Okanagan history. In 1928 an amateur radio station named the Kelowna Amateur Radio Club had the first non-commercial radio license. Under the call letters 10AY it was the first station to operate in the Okanagan.
In Nov. 1931 10AY went off the air and CKOV, "The Voice of the Okanagan" was born. This was the first commercial radio station in the Okanagan Valley.
Television had its beginnings as the station CHBC went on the air on September 21, 1957. It was an affiliate of CBC, which began broadcasting Sep. 1952.
In July 1958 CHBC launched its first mobile live telecast. The occasion was the opening of the Kelowna Floating Bridge. Her Royal Highness, Princess Margaret was there to do the honours.
CHBC covered the
entire Okanagn Valley. The station went to colour television Sep.1,
1966. CHBC News continues today to provide the Okanagan with all of its
local news and sports.
The Okanagan Historical Society was founded in 1925. It is one of the oldest societies in British Columbia. It is dedicated to the preservation of local history. A book has been published each year except for the Great Depression and World War II.
If you want to know Okanagan history in more detail this is the place to find out about it.
I hope you have enjoyed this trip back in time and learned a little bit of Okanagan history. I certainly enjoyed bringing you this information and I think it gives a new appreciation of this chapter in BC history.
Okanagan Valley Guide will be updated regularly. Please
return often or bookmark this site. I will be adding more pages of
exciting information for you.
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An Okanagan Vineyard