Okanagan History: William Pion, Part III

Fort Okanogan, pictured around 1853, was located at the confluence of the Columbia and Okanogan rivers. It was founded by John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company in 1811.

Part 3 of a three-part article about Central Okanagan pioneer William Pion and his family recounts their lives in the Central Okanagan and their eventual return to Washington Territory.

After Julia Pion’s death on June 1, 1865, William Pion soon remarried. Parish registers of the Mission of the Immaculate Conception (“Pandosy Mission”) record the Aug. 28, 1865, marriage of William Pion and Marie Stlakem, Okanagan Indian, widow of François Duchiquet.

Written in French, this marriage document shows Pion as the adult son of Louis Pion (of Montréal) and Marie, an Indian of the Spokane tribe. Witnesses were Cyprien Laurence and John McDougall, both residents of the Central Okanagan. Cyprien Laurence accompanied William Pion, when the Oblate missionaries – Fathers Charles Pandosy and Pierre Richard and Brother Philippe Surel – arrived in the Central Okanagan in October of 1859.

Marie Marguerite Stlakem’s late husband, François Duchiquet (Duchouquette), was an Oregon / Washington Territory pioneer. Duchiquet worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company and was employed as an interpreter at Fort Okanogan from 1856-1860. Duchiquet would have known William Pion, through their employment with the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) in Oregon / Washington Territory.

François Duchiquet was working at Fort Okanogan when it was abandoned by the HBC, in June 1860. François and Marie Duchiquet and their family then relocated to what is now Cawston, B.C., where Duchiquet built an HBC trading post and grew oats, potatoes, and various vegetables.

About 1863, François Duchiquet died near present-day Keremeos, B.C. Two years later, Marie Duchiquet married William Pion and moved to the Central Okanagan.

Mission of the Immaculate Conception parish registers record the Nov. 4, 1865, burial of Pierre Duchiquet, age six years. His parents were not listed, but it is probable that they were François and Marie Duchiquet’s. As a child, Pierre Duchiquet probably moved to the Central Okanagan with his widowed mother, when she married William Pion in 1865.

William and Marie Marguerite (Stlakem) Pion had at least one child born to them in the Central Okanagan:

• Rosalie Pion: born on May 8, 1866, and baptized at the Mission of the Immaculate Conception on May 27, 1866. Her godparents were Cyprien and Thérèse Laurence.

William and Marie Pion were living in the Central Okanagan as late as 1874. According to the Mission of the Immaculate Conception registers, they served as godparents at the Sept. 6, 1874, baptism of Hyacinthe, daughter of François and Anne Lavigneur. William and Marie Pion probably left the Central Okanagan shortly thereafter.

In 1874, William Pion’s Central Okanagan property, later known as the Pridham estate, was sold to George Whelan, who came to the Central Okanagan in September 1873. Whelan and his partner — possibly John B. Moore — owned the former Pion property for one year then he relocated to the Ellison district and established the Cloverdale Ranch.

According to local historian Frank M. Buckland, William and Marie Marguerite (Stlakem) Pion returned to Colville with his son Gideon (Gédéon). This was probably in the mid-1870s.

Unanswered questions remain about William Pion and his family. His exact date of birth is currently unknown. The dates and places of birth of his three sons – Gédéon, Baptiste, and Basile – and his daughter, Marie, also remain unknoawn.

Basile Pion’s May 3, 1862, burial at the Immaculate Conception Mission Cemetery is recorded in the parish registers. Reportedly age 26 years, Basile Pion’s grave is unmarked.

But what happened to Basile’s sister Marie (Pion) Matthieu and his brothers, Gédéon and Baptiste? Gédéon and Baptiste Pion left the Okanagan and probably returned to Washington Territory. Marie Matthieu never lived here. Where they lived the rest of their lives is currently not known.

William Pion and Marie Marguerite Pion probably had children other than the aforementioned Rosalie (born May 8, 1866). The 1880 U.S. Census (Colville Valley, Stevens County, Washington) provides information about the Pion family:

• William Pion: widowed 62 years old

• Mary Pion: daughter 10 years old

• Bazile Pion: son 8 years

According to these records, William Pion was born circa 1818, later than his earlier cited date of birth (1814). However, information provided for Census Returns is often not terribly accurate, especially details about age and date of birth.

William Pion, listed as a widower in the 1880 Washington Census, is the same man who escorted the Oblate missionaries into the Central Okanagan in October of 1859. The name “Bazile” (Basile) has a strong connection with the Okanagan’s William Pion. Bazile Pion (born circa 1872) was probably named in memory of William Pion’s son who died in the Okanagan on May 2, 1862 (age 26 years).

Did Marie Marguerite (Stlakem) Pion die prior to 1880, as indicated by the “widowed” marital status of William Pion listed in the 1880 Census returns?

The 1891 Indian Census Rolls for Washington State record that William Peone (age 80 years) and his wife Mary (age 60 years) were living at or near Colville, Washington. Immediately below their entry in this census is the name “Sophie Peone,” age 23 years, listed as “mother” of her son Frank Peone, age two years.

According to the 1891 Indian Census Rolls, Sophie was born circa 1868. It is probable that she was an older sibling of Mary (1870) and Bazile (1872).

Washington Territory / State and United States Indian Roll censuses and other government records indicate that William Pion lived into the early

20th century. In December 1905, Sophie Peone, daughter of William Peone, petitioned for Letters of Administration for his estate, consisting of property near Oroville. Sophie’s application indicates that William Peone died near Oroville, Wash., June 30, 1905. At the time of his death, he would have been about 90 years old.

It is important to note that there are significant “holes” in the Immaculate Conception (“Pandosy Mission”) parish registers. Some of the early registers of baptism, marriage, and burial – dating back to the 1860s – are missing. Members of the Pion family – including some of William Pion’s children – were probably mentioned in these early church records, providing information about their births, marriages, and deaths.

Since this is well before the implementation of British Columbia provincial Vital Statistics, it is quite probable that we may never know about some of the Pions who lived in the Central Okanagan, in the 1860s and early 1870s.

Another problem is the Canadian Census. British Columbia became Canada’s sixth province in July of 1871, but was not listed in the 1871 Canada Census. Okanagan residents were included in the 1881 Canada Census, but this was after the Pion family left and Okanagan and returned to the United States.

The ultimate goal is to locate photographs of William Pion, his wives, and children. This is a huge challenge, requiring additional research, time, and more than a little bit of good luck, but worthy of attention.

William Pion and his family played important roles in our valley’s settlement history. Their place in our history is deserving of recognition.

This article is part of a series, submitted by the Kelowna Branch, Okanagan Historical Society. Additional information would be welcome at P.O. Box 22105, Capri P.O., Kelowna, B.C., V1Y 9N9. Next week, the third article in this series about William Pion and family records the later life of this Okanagan pioneer, including his eventual return to the United States.