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O'Keefe Ranch - Armstrong, BC
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member BK-Hunters
N 50° 21.826 W 119° 16.952
11U E 337663 N 5581568
Quick Description: This heritage marker, recounting the beginnings of the Okanagan's first large ranching operation, is at the ranch, toward the rear of the parking area.
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Date Posted: 8/27/2014 5:44:56 PM
Waymark Code: WMMBPE
Views: 0

Long Description:
One of the earliest cattle empires in the Okanagan began in 1867 when Cornelius O’Keefe and Thomas Greenhow drove cattle from Oregon to the north end of Okanagan Lake. In 1868 O’Keefe homesteaded 162 acres nearby, and within 40 years his cattle were grazing over 15,000 acres. The Ranch became the site of Okanagan Post Office in 1872.
From the marker
O'Keefe Ranch

Cornelius O’Keefe was born in Fallowfield, Upper Canada (now a bedroom suburb of Ottawa) in 1838. He arrived in British Columbia in about 1860 and began packing and freighting supplies to the Cariboo. He also laid out 50 miles of the Cariboo Wagon Road between Clinton and Bridge Creek. He went into business with Thomas Wood to drive cattle north from Oregon to supply BC’s mining communities. On one of their drives they were assisted by Thomas Greenhow and stopped at the north end of Okanagan Lake to fatten their cattle before the final drive north. The three partners realized the potential of the Okanagan for ranching and each bought land and purchased breeding stock.

In 1867 O'Keefe and Greenhow purchased 162 acres on the present site of O’Keefe Ranch. Cattle were a mainstay, but the ranch also produced grain and vegetables. During the winter ice was cut on the lake and stored to keep butter, cheese, milk and meat cool in the summer. A grist mill along the creek provided flour and a portable sawmill produced lumber. The ranch partners were also responsible for building the first general store and establishing a post office at the ranch. O'Keefe was the first postmaster and held that position for 35 years. Other buildings at the ranch included a blacksmith shop and St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church.

Cornelius O’Keefe lived with a local First Nations woman by the name of Rosie and they had two children. In 1875 he married Mary Ann McKenna whom he had known in childhood in Fallowfield. Rosie reputedly lived with them to cook, but eventually she and her children went back to live among Rosie’s people. Between 1877-1893 Mary Ann gave birth to nine children. In 1892 the O’Keefes built themselves a bigger and more modern house which is now restored and part of the tour available at O’Keefe Ranch. Mary Ann died in 1899 and the following year Cornelius married Elizabeth Tierney. Between 1902-1911 Elizabeth had seven children. Cornelius died in 1919 and Elizabeth in 1929.

Cornelius and Elizabeth’s youngest son was named Tierney. In 1967 he and his wife Betty opened the ranch as a historic site to mark its 100th anniversary. In 1977 they sold it to the Devonian Foundation which gave it to the City of Vernon to preserve and operate. It is now a major heritage tourism destination in the North Okanagan operated on behalf of the City of Vernon by the O’Keefe Ranch and Interior Heritage Society. Among the most important original buildings are: the Log House (1867), Greenhow House, the O’Keefe House (1892) and St. Ann’s Church (1886). The small cemetery contains a number of well preserved tombstones of the families associated with the ranch.
From Heriage BC Stops

O'Keefe Ranch

Type of Marker: Cultural

Type of Sign: British Columbia Tourism Sign

Describe the parking that is available nearby: Parking lot on site.

What Agency placed the marker?: Canadian Confederation Centennial Committee of British Columbia

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