Okanagan History

Bernard Avenue pictured in 1895, the year before Lillie Wallace arrived in Kelowna.

I have passed her grave dozens of times, as I walk through Kelowna’s Pioneer Cemetery, conducting cemetery tours, doing research for local history articles, or savouring the quiet and solitude of that special place. Often, I have wondered about the person whose name is inscribed upon that stone marker:

Lillie A.M. Daughter of Albert & Elizabeth Wallace

Born April 10, 1874

Died June 9, 1896

The following verse is directly below this biographical information:

“Shall we meet in Heaven?

The Spirit and the Bride say, come.”

For some reason, I have not taken the time to research Lillie A.M. Wallace. This situation recently changed, as I led a tour through the Pioneer Cemetery and felt an urgent need to learn more about Lillie A.M. Wallace. Then and there, I resolved to research her short life.

I checked the British Columbia Death Registrations, hoping that Lilly Wallace’s 1896 death was recorded. It was not registered, blocking that possible source of information. I needed to look elsewhere.

Having Lillie’s date of birth from her grave marker was a great place to continue my research, although I accept that such dates are sometimes erroneous. I started by looking for Lillie A.M. Wallace born on April 10, 1874 and made the decision to start my search in the Vital Statistics of the Province of Ontario, which are available through Ancestry.com.

I was immediately rewarded: Lillian Ann Maria Wallace was born in Grey County, Ontario on April 10, 1874, daughter of Albert Wallace (Grey County farmer) and Elizabeth A. Wallace (nee Bell). Everything fitted nicely: her full name, date of birth, and her parents’ names.

My next research stop was the 1881 Canada Census, which might provide additional information about Lillie Wallace and her family. Again, I was rewarded for my efforts. The 1881 Canada Census for Egremont Sub-District, Grey County South, Ontario (pages 28 and 29) provides the following information:

• Wallace, Albert, 41 years old, born in Ontario, Presbyterian, farmer

• Wallace, Elizabeth, 39 years old, born in Ireland, Presbyterian

• Wallace, Emily, 16 years old, born in Ontario, Presbyterian

• Wallace, Samuel R., 14 years old, born in Ontario, Presbyterian

• Wallace, Albert E., 12 years old, born in Ontario, Presbyterian

• Wallace, John H., 11 years old, born in Ontario, Presbyterian

• Wallace, Horace, 8 years old, born in Ontario, Presbyterian

• Wallace, Lily M., 6 years old, born in Ontario, Presbyterian

• Wallace, Arthur L., 5 years old, born in Ontario, Presbyterian

• Wallace, Eunise [sic], 2 1/2 years old, born in Ontario, Presbyterian

Lillie Wallace was from a large family, not uncommon in those years. According to the 1881 Canada Census, she was the sixth of eight children in her family.

Ten years later, the 1891 Canada Census shows that the Wallace family unit was still intact, with parents (Albert and Elizabeth Wallace) and eight children, all unmarried and ranging in age from 26 to ten years. “Lily Ann Maria” was 17 years old.

But what had changed since the 1881 Canada Census was the place of residence. In 1891, the Wallace family was living in Sifton Sub-District, Selkirk District, Manitoba.

Lillie A.M. Wallace was living with her family in Manitoba in 1891, five years before her death. But how could I connect her to Kelowna and why was she living in the Central Okanagan?

Kelowna did not have its own newspaper until “The Clarion” came to press in 1904. Prior to that date, news about Kelowna can sometimes be found in “The Vernon News,” which began publication in 1891 and often carried news of the comings and goings in the Central Okanagan.

A careful examination of “The Vernon News” from 1891 to 1896 came up with no references to Lillie Wallace. I was no closer to knowing why she was in Kelowna at the time of her death or any circumstances surrounding her death.

It was then that the research gods came to my assistance. I “Googled” Lillie’s name and year of death, and was immediately rewarded with a notice which appeared on page 2 of the June 24, 1896 edition of the “Manitoba Morning Free Press,” printed in Winnipeg:

Death at Kelowna.

Kelowna, B.C., June 20 – The many friends of Mr. A. Wallace and family regret to hear of their sad bereavement in the death of their daughter and sister, Miss Lillie Wallace, who died at Kelowna, B.C., June 19th at twenty minutes past ten p.m. Miss Wallace started for British Columbia with her brother, who is stationed at Kelowna for the summer, about the 24th of May, in the hope that the beautiful climate might regain her lost strength. For some days she gained in strength but soon passed away to join her mother, who died Jan. 19th, but five months ago.

I have been successful in learning about Lillie Wallace, her family, life, and death. Born in Ontario in 1874, she and her family moved to Manitoba prior to 1891. Due to some lingering illness, and with the hope that “the beautiful [Okanagan] climate” might restore her health, Lillie and her brother moved to Kelowna in late May or early June of 1896.

Sadly, the Okanagan’s restorative power was unsuccessful; Lillie Wallace died at Kelowna on June 9, only weeks after her arrival in the Central Okanagan.

Of course, more questions remain to be answered. Which of Lillie’s brothers accompanied her to Kelowna in 1896? What does it mean that he was “stationed at Kelowna for the summer”? This is an unusual phrase, implying that this unidentified brother was in Kelowna on some official business, possibly with the military, police or government.

In 1896, Kelowna was a very small town, having been founded only four years earlier, and boasting only a handful of residents, businesses, and government services in its downtown core.

Lillie Wallace’s brother is now the focus of my research and another article about Kelowna’s history.

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.

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