II. THE EARLY BRITISH SETTLERS: 1860s - 1920s
The early settlers in the Okanagan Valley were principally British, who brought an infusion of capital to develop cattle ranching and fruit farming. As the settlement era progressed from the mid to late 1800s the large influx of the British led to their numerical and class dominance. According to census figures for British Columbia, the number of residents who were born in Britain rose steadily, from 31,982 in 1901, to 116,529 in 1911, and to nearly 150,000 by 1914. From 1911 to the 1920s, one out of every three white persons in B.C. was British, a proportion far higher than anywhere else in Canada (Barman, 1981, p. 612). In 1901, the Census of Canada recorded the ethnic population for the district of Yale, which was an area that encompassed the Okanagan Valley (Dominion Bureau of Statistics, 1902). In this census the British were by far the largest ethnic group at 7,821, followed by First Nations people at 5,247. The other groups included 1,148 Chinese and Japanese, 501 French, 461 Germans, and 284 Scandinavians.
From Cattle Ranching to Fruit Farming
The original British settlers established a large cattle-raising industry throughout the Okanagan in the second half of the 19th century. John Carmichael Haynes is an example of a very successful British cattle rancher of this period. He came to British Columbia in 1858 at the age of twenty seven and began acquiring property around Osoyoos in 1866. Over a twenty year period he built a 22,000 acre spread with cattle from his ranch being sold in nearby communities. However, unlike cattlemen who later settled in the area, John Haynes was not one to appear in twill shirts, denim trousers and a stetson. True to his gentleman and class origin, he preferred a neatly-buttoned tweed jacket, tailored riding breeches and a pith helmet (Dunae, 1981, p. 43). Haynes became one of the three "cattle kings" in the South Okanagan and Similkameen before the Valley experienced a transition to fruit production. The other 2 were Tom Ellis and Francis Xavier Richter.
While cattle ranching was dominant, fruit trees were also planted to supply local ranch needs. In the late 1880s James and Fred Gartrell began irrigating a full fledged fruit orchard near Peachland. Andrew (1954, p. 53) noted that during this time some ranches had a few fruit trees to supply their own requirements, but the Gartrell brothers were the first in the Okanagan to irrigate and grow more fruit than their ranch could consume. In the late 1890s and early 1900s, the Gartrells took wagon loads of fruit and vegetables to the mining towns of Camp McKinney, Fairview and Greenwood.
John Moore Robinson, born in 1855 in Ontario of Irish descent, was inspired by the Gartrell Ranch. He bought a ranch, which he renamed "Peachland", and began selling agricultural land for the development of peach orchards. In a similar manner, he developed the areas of Summerland and Naramata where he is credited with establishing the soft fruit industry. Lore has it that Robinson "hand-picked" newcomers to the area and they included many well-educated people (Andrew, 1955, p. 72).
Although settlers had been growing fruit in the Okanagan since the 1860s, the potential of commercial orcharding was not fully realized until Lord Aberdeen, the then Governor General of Canada, began exporting fruit from the orchards on his Coldstream Ranch in the 1890s. Dunae (1981, p. 113) writes in his book, entitled Gentlemen Emigrants: From the British Public Schools to the Canadian Frontier:
In 1891 he bought over 13,000 acres of land in the north end of the Valley from Forbes Vernon and renamed it Coldstream Ranch. There, Lord Aberdeen planted 200 acres of orchard which was soon followed by conversion of the BX Ranch in Vernon into an orchard and the establishment of the Bankhead Orchard in Kelowna. The 1958 Royal Commission on the Tree Fruit Industry of British Columbia cited Lord Aberdeen's decision to invest in the Okanagan as: "... the single event which served most to focus the attention of people on the Okanagan Valley..." (MacPhee, 1958, p. 21). After Aberdeen's involvement there was widespread promotion in England of 1) the Okanagan Valley as a desirable place to live and 2) fruit farming as a choice way of life. This promotion, along with the 1896 decision of the Laurier Government to vigorously facilitate the settlement of Western Canada through immigration, hastened the transformation of the Okanagan from cattle to fruit (Barman 1981, p. 610). These developments created a land boom in the Okanagan, where some land values increased, from $1.00 per acre in 1898, to $1000 per acre in 1908 (Putman, 1973, p.3; Dunae, 1981, p. 114). The major land acquisitors in this boom were British.
At the time the key problem for commercial fruit production was the transportation of fruit to markets and in 1892 this problem was resolved with the introduction of a rail service from Salmon Arm to Vernon to Okanagan Landing (Dendy, 1974, p. 68). The "Shuswap and Okanagan Railway" provided the necessary railhead for lake steamers picking up fruit from producers. The result was an explosion in the land planted with fruit trees, which went, from 7,000 acres in 1901, to over 29,000 acres in 1905 (Dendy, 1974, p. 71).
When Lord Aberdeen began selling some of his property in 1895 to British and Canadian settlers, his wife described the buyers as British settlers "of a very good class" (Barman, 1981, p. 610). A popular farming guide, published in Britain in 1909, depicted an Okanagan lifestyle "where school friendships can be continued unbroken, with joint sporting expeditions as happy interludes to lucrative fruit-farming operations" (Barman, 1984, p. 19). Many promoters quoted Albert Henry George, the fourth Earl Grey and Canada's Governor General from 1904 to 1911, in their advertisements. Grey strongly recommended to his fellow English compatriots that a farm in British Columbia would be a fine investment for their sons, and he himself proceeded to buy a small fruit ranch in the Kootenay Valley. Governor Grey pronounced fruit growers to be "par excellence Nature's Gentlemen." Horticulture was "a beautiful art as well as a most profitable industry" and as such was a natural calling for Englishmen of "refinement, culture, and distinction" and he called the fruit farmer "the most desirable of all citizens" (Dunae, 1981, p. 114). In 1910 he assured an audience of growers: "There are thousands of families living in England today, families of refinement, culture and distinction," who would like nothing better than to be able to purchase an orchard "at reasonable cost" (Barman, 1981, p. 612). Barman concluded that a vital part of British immigration into British Columbia were the serious settlers "of the better class", or in the appellation of a son of an Okanagan family, "Scottish, English and Irish gentry" (1984, p. 34). The Okanagan Valley, including the prototype Coldstream settlement with its British aristocratic aura, became almost fashionable as a destination for middle-class and even upper-class British immigrants.
In the Kelowna area, many of the early orchardists were of British origin. These included Pooley, Carruthers, Stirling, Taylor, Turton, and Hobson.
W. R. Pooley, one of the earliest orchardists in East Kelowna, was born in Gloucestershire in 1880. Pooley and E.M. Carruthers, a native of Scotland, formed the Kelowna Land and Orchard (KLO) Co. in 1904. Carruthers was the first to plant orchards in East and South Kelowna (Collett, 1959, p. 94).
T.W. Stirling, born in 1866 near Manchester England, came to the Okanagan in 1893. He was a wealthy retired navy lieutenant-commander who came with the intention of developing the fruit industry. Stirling and Pooley formed a marketing company in 1908 and opened an office in London, England in 1910 to sell land in East and South Kelowna. In 1911, Stirling and L.E. Taylor, a native of Ireland, formed the Bankhead Orchard Company (Gray, 1971, p. 98).
Frank Turton, born in Hull, England, came to Kelowna in 1931 after working on a coffee plantation in East Africa. In 1943 he married Doris Ward whose family owned the Apex Orchards. Together, they developed one of the largest apple orchards in Canada by combining Canada West and Apex Orchards ("Turtons Celebrate," 1983).
William D. Hobson, educated in Cambridge, England, planted his first fruit trees on 27 acres of land in the Benvoulin area of Kelowna in partnership with Hugh Rose. By 1902 Hobson went into fruit farming in Okanagan Mission on his own ("Opportunity for", 1986).
In Dendy's historical analysis of the fruit industry it is noted that at least 60 land companies were established in the years prior to World War I to buy up ranches, arrange irrigation and to resell the subdivided land for fruit growing (1976, p. 4). Many land development companies active in the Okanagan, including one launched by Lord Aberdeen in 1906 to develop small holdings in the Coldstream, tried to lure upper and middle-class British with glossy advertising brochures which extolled "fruit ranching" as the most civilized form of agriculture.
While the early settlers were primarily British, it should be noted that other Europeans, including Italians and Germans, were also part of the settlement era. These early fruit growing settlers were not able to run their operations alone. They needed migrant agricultural labour. The remainder of this paper examines the various racial and ethnic groups who provided this labour, beginning with the Chinese.
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