First Ranchers

In the early 1860s, a large number of cattle and sheep drovers took up land along the cattle trail to the Cariboo. Inevitably the first land taken was within a short drive to the Cariboo goldfields.

A photograph of the Corwall's Ashcroft Ranch.Click to enlarge,
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Cornwall’s Ashcroft Ranch, 1862. A-01652 – Courtesy of Royal British Columbia Museum

This was primarily because the drovers wanted an area close to the markets where they could winter or hold their cattle until prices were at their best. The first activity was in the bunchgrass ranges along the Bonaparte River, the last area of ample grazing before the Cariboo. As early as 1859, Commander R.C. Mayne of the Royal Navy reported, “There is much good land along the Bonaparte; the whole being clothed with long grass of which the horses seemed very fond.”

In the same time period, a number of settlers took up land in the area around Fort Kamloops because of its proximity to the fort as a supply centre, and because of its central location. As usual, Hudson’s Bay Company employees, who were experienced veterans of the country, were quick to take advantage of the availability of land. In the next few years, the ranges around Kamloops were busy with numerous land pre-emptions. The grasslands between Kamloops and Cache Creek, particularly on the south side of Kamloops Lake, attracted settlers as well.

A photograph of Thomas Ellis's ranch. Click to enlarge,
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Ellis Ranch, Okanagan Valley, 1869. A-02130 – Courtesy of Royal British Columbia Museum

Because of its distance from markets, the Okanagan Valley was slower to attract white setters than the areas near the Thompson River. Initial activity centred around the mission established by the Catholic Oblate priests halfway up the east side of Okanagan Lake. This was an area of extensive bunchgrass that was well watered by creeks running through it and by the lake itself.

Media Files

Audio Tapes 4256:1 Cattle Ranching in the Nicola - “Early Ranchers”
Ranchers describe the early settlement of the Nicola Valley during the British Columbia gold rush.

A flash player with audio describing the early settlement of the Nicola Valley during the British Columbia gold rush.

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