Local historian Richard Smith was kind enough to send me some cool ‘did you knows’ about Peachland, and he’s going to share what he knows right here, in his own words 🙂
No History? Know history – as you follow the strange tales of the little town of Peachland in this ‘Know it All – About Peachland’, by Richard Smith. As a tribute to a century of stories, a few are included here:
• Did you know that Sunnyside Market was for many years called Fulk’s General Store? It was owned by a father and son, Len and Ken Fulks – and they were actually direct relatives of Captain James Cook, the famous British explorer. In 1958 Len and his wife were on a television quiz show called the Front Page Challenge and his James Cook ancestry stumped the panel! He was also invited to the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Family members were also flown to Australia for a major anniversary celebrating its discovery.
• The Edgewater Hotel started its life as the Lakeview Hotel above the Cutbill Feed store on the CPR wharf and then moved to become the Edgewater Inn, J. M. Robinson’s home. It was changed to the Totem Inn in the 1950s when Pete Spackman bought it and carved a totem pole from a pine tree growing in the front yard beside the street.
• Back in the day, Peachland supplied electrical power to Westbank! In the 1940s the water-powered generator in Peachland was linked to the Westbank diesel generator over steel wires. On occasion when the diesel shut down, the only electricity available was from Peachland over these power lines. During the day, Westbank provided most of the power for the two communities. All this ceased when electricity was brought to both communities by the BC Power Commission. Peachland’s power plant ceased operation in 1947.
• About a decade before that, there was a man who out of the goodness of his heart, bailed out the District of Peachland. It was the 1930s and the man was Ray Harrington Jr. His father had been Mayor and also a councillor for many years. He was also quite involved with the local Baptist Church and when the District came upon hard times, he loaned them $1,000. Harrington was also among the founders of Maple Spring Bible Camp, and his home still stands on Victoria Ave.
• Rusty Palmer lived on the family farm in Trepanier, known as Palmer’s Flats. He was a graduate in Pharmacology and his sister Lillian was famous as an Olympic silver medalist. She competed in the 1932 Olympics and the 1934 British Empire Games in track and field events. She is in the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame. Possibly she is the town’s only Olympian?
• Did you know Peachland has three wineries in its history? Hainle comes to mind first for many – it’s the home of the very first ice wine in North America, and they’re still operating today (under new management – you can read the business profile I wrote for Hainle here)
According to Richard Smith, the first estate winery in BC, Chateau Jonn de Trepanier, was located at the top of Trepanier Rd. It was created by Marion John, who was famous for his Riesling. He was convinced Canada was ready for European, estate style wineries (his family roots were in Romania). A 1977 vintage is shown here. Few of these bottles remain, but two of them have a home at the Peachland Museum! The vineyard still exists today, but Smith says after operating as First Estate Winery and Chateau St. Clair, it is no longer a winery that you can visit. But if you Google First Estate Winery in Peachland, an Airbnb off Cousins Rd comes up.
Henry Moeller was another winemaker on the Trepanier side of town – Richard says he had a small family cottage winery, but unfortunately he died of cancer and the vineyard was lost as a result.
• Did you know that in 1997, Peachland’s little schoolhouse – the cute red-trimmed building on Brandon Lane – was slated by the District for demolition? Here’s where some feisty Peachlanders came in: They formed the “Friends of The Little Schoolhouse Society” and offered to restore the building, at no cost to taxpayers. Ever since then, the Peachland Little Schoolhouse Society” exists to host artist workshops, and other community groups who would like to use the charming space.
• James and Frank Wilson were in trouble. It was 1912 and they had robbed the Charter & Taylor general store and post office in South Kelowna and were arrested in Penticton. The prisoners were being returned under police guard to Kelowna on the SS Okanagan. But as they neared Peachland, James surprised provincial police Constable George Aston with a .22 revolver. The policeman was shot and killed, and the duo made their escape into the hills above Peachland, heading north. They were recaptured by the police at Wilson’s Landing. James was later executed for the murder of Const. Aston.
• RCMP Const. Neil Bruce was another police officer who sadly lost his life, and the man who killed him was arrested in Peachland. It was 1965 and the constable was investigating a hostage taking at a cabin in Powers Creek. He was only walking up to the front door, when he was murdered by Russell Spears. Spears fled but was cornered in the Trepanier area. The Haskell family spotted him, the suspect was surrounded – but Spears shot his dog and then took his own life. Const Neil Bruce Middle School in Westbank is a permanent tribute to this police officer’s memory.
• OK something a little lighter: Did you know Peachland used to have a drive-in theatre? This was in the mid – 1950s. It was located in a flat clearing of trees, near where the Okanagan Connector joins Highway 97. It was the perfect spot – far enough away the noise didn’t bother anyone, and right between Peachland town centre and Westbank. According to Richard Smith, it was very short-lived, exciting thing to have a drive in theatre here – at the time, the closest one was a long ferry trip to Kelowna!
• Did you know that at the corner of Turner and Princeton, there used to be a pound? It wasn’t just for dogs – it was also used to corral stray horses and cows. If your cow was ‘impounded’ you had to pay a fine, as well as the cost of feed during its stay. For many years, schoolkids would get off the bus at the ‘pound’ stop – and up to the 1950s, the corral was still there.
• There used to be a skating rink downtown, too. It was a very cold winter in the 1960s when Pete Spackman and a few other dedicated volunteers decided to build a rink for fellow Peachlanders. They set it up where the cenotaph is today. It was a big hit – for a week or so. Warm weather put an end to things, as it tends to do here in the Okanagan!
• Here’s a story about a man named Billy Williams: He lived in a small cabin in the woods between 5th and 6th St. before the downtown area was built up. He lived from about 1925 to 1945, when he passed away. He was then taken to the Municipal Hall and laid out on the council table, ready for burial next day. The Girl Guides came into the hall for their regular meeting and there was old Billy! His cabin, no longer needed, was dragged behind the Peachland General Store to be used as a feed shed. It was covered with cardboard walls inside for cleanliness. It was then moved to the scrap metal yard at the end of 3rd St. and became the home of Jim Robertson, the hired man at the Smith’s dairy farm. The cabin was then taken to that farm to store grain in about 1962. Rain coming through the roof buckled the cardboard walls in about 1982 and found under those walls, were 55 calendars of local Peachland businesses that Billy had collected over the years for decoration. They still exist in Richard Smith’s collection.
• In the 1940s and 1950s a young boy, Peter St. John grew up in Peachland. His dad was retired Colonel St.John. His grandparents, the Pierces, lived at the end of Princess Street. Did you know that he is today the 9th and present modern Earl of Orkney relating directly back to the Vikings? Strangely enough 90% of all early Hudson’s Bay fur traders were from the Scottish Orkney Islands (Orcadians). Fur Brigade Trail traders in the 1860s stopped at May Spring beside the Pierce home! Peter now lives in Winnipeg, an expert on world terrorism and he was called by President Bush when the two towers were destroyed on 9/11.
• In 1942 Mayor, Ben Gummow died while in the office. His wife Stella Gummow took over his duties and was later elected Mayor. She served from 1942 to 1944. Did you know that she was the first female mayor in British Columbia and second in Canada? She was also the one to suggest the Dogwood as the official emblem of the province of British Columbia. She traveled extensively for the Provincial Department of Agriculture in the 1940s and 1950s. She was also president of the BC Women’s Institute of the day.
• Peachlander Jack Wilson was a man of many talents. Did you know that he was a decorated officer in World War 1, was wounded and gassed at the front line trenches, came home and was a logger, ran a dairy, and had an orchard. In World War Two he was the officer in charge of the Peachland guerrilla unit of the Pacific Coast Militia Rangers formed to defend against any attack by the Japanese. We were bombed here by the Japanese but not in a conventional way – by hydrogen filled balloons launched from Japan intended to start the forests ablaze. Jack investigated one nearby. His passion in later life, while going blind from WW1 gas, was fishing. Thus the historic name attached to a restaurant, “The Blind Angler.”
• Log Chute Road above Deep Creek is named for the unique method of moving logs from the top of Deep Creek hill to the lake. A log chute was built like the water flumes of the day and the logs introduced into this chute took no time to get to the lake. It was much cheaper and easier than dragging each log with horses. From there it was a short way to the McDougall Steam Sawmill, on the water, at the location of today’s Renfrew Road and Highway 97. After it burnt, for many years the pilings remained as a swimming area for the young people of town. If you want to know more about street names, there’s more right here!
• Here’s something timely from a ways back! Richard says in the 1960s when he was hitch-hiking across Canada, Europe and North Africa, there was an important piece of documentation he had with him at all times: His vaccination certificate. (That’s Richard on the right, at 21 years old.)
“It was still required when I went to England in 1968 so a new one was needed,” he says.
“You can easily guess which (document) is the oldest!”
• Did you know that Peachland is also the name of a town in the metro area of Charlotte, North Carolina USA? The community was named for a nearby peach orchard. The mayor of that village visited our Mayor Waldo many years ago. Peachland residents, Bernice and Albert Galpin also made a trip to visit the small town. It is the only other known town in the world named Peachland!
• The Kelowna Ferry ‘Lequime’ once came to Peachland but not to pick up cars. It arrived in its present form as the Fintry Queen and was docked on the outside of the Yacht Club wharf. It was here to take on board delegates from a large church convention. The date was September, 1991.
• There was such an abundance of Kokanee in both Deep Creek and Trepanier creek that the town once had a small fish company that provided Kokanee and possibly even the then abundant Kamloops trout to the CPR paddle wheelers. This odd story was told by the old-timer Jim Clements, who also had for many years, in his possession a wooden box with the words ‘Peachland Fish Company’ stencilled on it. It seems that fish were caught commercially on a very small scale and sold to the CPR for use in the dining rooms of the lake paddle wheelers.
• For many years in the 1930s and 1940s the Mannring family herded 1,000 sheep on the hills above Peachland, on the Pennask plateau. In the winter they were herded on the hillsides above the town and above Greata ranch and the Miller ranch, now Okanagan lake Park campground. In spring with the help of sheep herding dogs, the sheep were moved up Princeton Avenue to the summer range on Pennask Mountain. Betty (Mannring) Sim still lives here, and her outstanding voice has been part of the United Church congregation for many years.
• The chief administrator of the municipality was once called the municipal clerk. One was particularly memorable. He ran the municipal office with the help of a secretary but he was also the Fire Chief, the head of Public works, drove the dump truck, drove the road grader, ran the asphalt plant, and in winter he had a skating rink for the community children on his front lawn. His name was Chesel Haker and his home still stands at the top of Princeton Avenue. He is fondly remembered, to say the least.
What’s new at the museum?
Some good news! The Peachland Museum was successful in getting a grant that will go a long way towards making some fixes to our town’s 100+ year old home of local history. The District just announced (Feb 23) that they’re getting $600,000 from the CERIP Unique Heritage Infrastructure Grant.
“The grant was not for the entire amount that we applied for ($950,000), but we are currently completing a pre-renovation study and will work with our contractor to determine which parts of the project we can defer to another year,” says the District’s Cheryl Wiebe.
UPDATE: As of March 20, contractors are working on a pre-renovation audit that will help staff determine the priorities. The grant has been included in the District’s 2021 general capital plan.
The project has to start by the end of the year and finish by March 2023.
Did you know the fourth edition of The Story of Peachland is out? You can get your copy at the Peachland Museum – and it’s also handed out to every Grade 5 graduate at Peachland Elementary. Whether you’ve lived here forever or are a newer resident, it’s a great read.
We know there’s many sides to history – and in Peachland, it’s mostly contained within the eight walls of our unique historical museum downtown. Built as a Baptist church, it’s been here since 1910, and for locals, it should come as no surprise that it was built mainly by volunteers. Today, the Peachland Museum is home to our town’s early stories, artifacts and photos. It’s also where you’ll find one of the most detailed model train settings (depicting life along the Kettle Valley Railway from Nelson to Hope BC in the mid 50s to 1960s).
From September to June, the museum hours are 1 – 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. During the summer the museum is open seven days a week! Here’s their website for more info.
Ever notice most Peachland streets are named after someone? Don Wigfield is the author of The Story of Peachland and The Roads of Peachland: The Historical Origins of Their Names. He’s working on a second edition of this book now, and in the meantime he’s generously lent me a copy of the first edition. I’m using info from there to let you know the meaning behind our street names! Check it out!