Local history buffs will be pleased to learn the Okanagan Historical Society’s 84th Report is now available for purchase. Its arrival each year is eagerly anticipated by Okanagan historians and researchers, anxious to learn more about the valley around them.
The cover of the 84th Report features an 1882 painting of the Okanagan wagon road by Grafton Tyler Brown, British Columbia’s first professional Black American artist. The original painting is in the Royal BC Museum’s collection and permission to use it on the Report cover was obtained by the Okanagan Historical Society (OHS) Editor, Ken Mather.
It is appropriate the 84th Report is dedicated to the late Dorothy Jean (nee Whitham) Zoellner (1929-2020). Dorothy dedicated many years to the Okanagan Historical Society, serving with the Kelowna Branch and the OHS Executive Council. She wrote numerous articles for the Okanagan Historical Society, many of which appeared in this weekly newspaper column. Dorothy’s many contributions to the Okanagan Historical Society will not soon be forgotten or eclipsed.
As with the previous year’s Reports, the newest OHS offering is divided into geographic sections, reflecting the
society’s eight branches: Similkameen, Oliver/Osoyoos, Penticton, Summerland, Kelowna (Central Okanagan), Vernon, Armstrong/Enderby and Salmon Arm.
The Kelowna branch’s section, pages 102-140, features an excellent vignette of Kelowna’s history, penned by local historian and Kelowna branch editor Sharron Simpson.
Simpson traces Kelowna’s history from a “crude and uncompromising little place” to a “bustling commercial and innovation centre,” offering up key names, dates, and events to serve as our guides.
The Kelowna branch’s section includes four major articles, reflecting our local history and the people who have shaped the Central Okanagan:
• “Central Okanagan 1860s Francophones” by Robert M. Hayes documents 10 of the early Francophone pioneers — from France and Quebec — who settled here in the 1860s. Each
family has its own brief history, including when and where they settled, names of family members, and their contributions to our valley’s history. Photographs of some of these francophone pioneers are included.
• “Stanley M. Simpson: The Man, his Business, and his Legacy” by Sharron J. Simpson (his granddaughter) recounts the life of S.M. Simpson, the history of his local sawmill, and its importance to Kelowna’s economy,
providing much-needed employment and wood products. Sharron Simpson punctuates this biography/history with stories of the many challenges her grandfather faced and how he dealt with adversity, always believing in himself and what he was doing for his community.
• “The Don-O-Ray Vegetable Stand” by retired Kelowna school teacher Donald E. Rampone recounts how a small Benvoulin Road business, started by Don and his brother Ray, in 1960, grew into a major enterprise and a well-known fixture in the community. Don provides background information about his pioneer Rampone roots and credits much of Don-O-Ray’s success to the encouragement and support of his parents and other family members. Don-O-Ray has grown to be much more than a family-run business, providing local residents with wonderful farm-fresh produce and an appreciation of the importance of our agricultural industry.
• “Kathleen Dora Marshall (nee Day) – Remembered” by her daughters Lois and Jane Marshall, presents the life of locally born Kathleen Marshall, referencing her deep pioneer roots through the Day and McCarthy families. Kathleen loved the Central Okanagan — a love surpassed only by her love for her family. Kathleen’s was a busy life, dedicated to her family, farm and orchard, animals, music, art, writing, and much more. Many of Kathleen’s articles about life in the Central Okanagan were published in this newspaper column.
Of course, there are numerous articles about other parts of the Okanagan, Similkameen and Shuswap valleys, all providing a glimpse into the histories of British Columbia’s south-central interior. These topics include Fire in the Okanagan, Memories of Canoe, North Columbia Trading Company, Stories that Silver Star Runs Tell, BX Ranch Horses to the North-West Territories, Fruit Processing and Canning in the South Okanagan, Celebrating the Life of Kathleen Ellis, Getting to Know William Jessup Snodgrass, and First Custom Houses in the Similkameen and Osoyoos. There is no shortage of topics to tempt local history aficionados.
The “Lives Remembered” section of the “84th Report” (pages 217-232) contains brief biographies and tributes to local residents who have served Central Okanagan citizens and organizations: Douglas John “Doug” Ablett, 1933-2019; Rhonda Gail (nee McGowan) Burr, 1951-2019; John de Montreuil, 1923-2019; Yoshiyuki “Jack” Hatanaka, 1939 -2020; Audrey Frances (nee Baron) Hume, 1920-2018; Marianne Gertrude “Gertie” (nee McDonald) Johnston, 1913-2020; Joseph Patrick “Joe” Kaiser, 1930-2020; Sarah Lillian “Sally” (nee Gage) Krasselt, 1922-2020; Christine Fernie “Chrissie” (nee Burt) Leathley, 1916-2019; Douglas Davidson “Doug” McDougall, 1923-2019; Kathleen Dora (nee Day) Marshall, 1941-2019; Hisako “Helen” (nee Matsuda) Naito, 1932-2019; Yukio “John” Naito, 1929-2019; James Henry “Jim” Stuart, 1934-2020; and Dorothy Jean (nee Whitham) Zoellner, 1929-2020.
Editor Mather, well-known for his presentations, articles and books about pioneer life in the south-central interior, has produced a publication which will find a welcome and comfortable place on the bookshelves and desks of anyone who has an interest in our Valley’s human and natural history.
Stories in the 84th Report are further enhanced through the inclusion of historic photographs, sketches, and maps from public and private collections.
The 84th Report of the Okanagan Historical Society is currently available from Bob Hayes (250-763-8859), Mosaic Books (Kelowna) and the Lake Country Museum. It makes an excellent and affordable gift for that someone special on your Christmas list.
This article is part of a series, submitted by the Kelowna Branch, Okanagan Historical Society. Additional information is always welcome at P.O Box 22105 Capri P.O., Kelowna, BC, V1Y 9N9.