O'Keefe Ranch was established in 1867 and operated by the O'Keefe family for the
next 110 years. In its earliest days, the ranch was at the end of the wagon road
into the Okanagan Valley, and the site of the stage coach depot for the Okanagan.
For forty years it was the home of the Okanagan Post Office, the first in the
valley. The O'Keefe Ranch played a major role in the history of the North Okanagan.
The 1870s and 1880s
were the days of the open range, when thousands of head of cattle roamed the great
unfenced ranges of the Okanagan, Thompson and Caribou regions of British Columbia.
The myth of the "cowboy"
grew up around the young men who worked with the cattle, even though the mystique
of the untamed and romantic cowboy life was sometimes belied by the rough, low-paying
life that they actually led. The O'Keefe Ranch attracted young men from all over
North America who wanted to try out the cowboy way of life. Early census records
even show a Mexican "vaquero", Pedro Ortega, working for Cornelius O'Keefe. But
among the finest cowboys in the Okanagan were the native people. Excellent horsemen
with a deep knowledge of the country, they made wonderful stockmen.
visitors have a dozen different buildings to visit, including the O'Keefe House,
where guided tours of the magnificent interior are given to visitors, highlighted
by the Victorian dining room where the O'Keefe family's priceless Meissen porcelain
and silverware are displayed. The house also includes among its treasures a turn-of-the-century
music box in a walnut cabinet, which fills the house with sound when its metal
disks are played.
walk up the boardwalk brings the visitor to the Log House, which was the family's
original home, constructed in 1875, the General Store, packed to the ceiling with
the artifacts of yesterday, and the Blacksmith Shop, where a working blacksmith
plies his trade.
St. Anne's Church
At the end of the
boardwalk is St. Anne's Church, built on its present site in 1889, a monument
to the simple faith of the pioneers. Behind the church is the graveyard, where
the O'Keefe family and many other pioneers are buried.
the grounds, and in two large Implement Sheds on the hill, is a wide variety of
farm implements and machinery. But most interesting to visitors, especially those
from the city, is the rare breeds farm display: unique breeds of cows, horses,
pigs, sheep, and goats graze peacefully in the pastures and corrals, and chickens,
turkeys and Guinea fowl scratch in the dirt (when they are not being gleefully
pursued by young children).
There is a working winery on the ranch.
Hunting Hawk Wineries is producing wines especially for O’Keefe Ranch with authentic,
antique wine-making implements right on-site, with a wine tasting area as well
as a wine patio to enjoy the fruits of their labours.
The Ranch also
has a museum building where there are extensive displays on the ranching and cowboy
way of life, as well as a video telling the O'Keefe Ranch story.
Don't miss the
Cowboy Festival at the Ranch!
The highlight of the season.
But the O'Keefe
Ranch does more than just preserve the artifacts of the past. It works to keep
the lifestyle of the cowboy alive as well, through a variety of special events
during the year. Perhaps the most interesting event is the Cowboy Festival, which
sees professional rodeo events, artisans, musicians, cowboy poets, and live theatre
perform for two days of fun and activity. The O’Keefe Ranch website outlines details
of this event and the other special events and festivals throughout the season.
The Historic O'Keefe Ranch is more than a glimpse back into the past
at the lifestyles, values and artifacts of the past. It is a memorial to the ranchers
and cowboys who came to British Columbia from around the world to make a new life
for themselves. Their legacy lives on, enriching our own lives and connecting
us to our heritage and our beginnings.
Mailing Address: Box
955, Vernon, BC V1T 6M8
Fax: (250) 542-7868