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Driving to Vancouver in the early 1900s

Included in the recently acquired Heddle papers is an unidentified newspaper article, date unknown and most likely from the Vernon News. The article quotes from a journal kept by W. T. Heddle of Oyama during an auto trip that he made from Oyama to Vancouver, via Wenatchee, Washington State.  The Wenatchee route was obviously made necessary because of the absence of a road connecting the Okanagan Valley with the coast.  He left Oyama at 8:12 a.m. on Wednesday, July 12th and reached his destination on Sunday, July 16th at 10:40 p.m. Five full days of travel to reach Vancouver!

(Read a typescript of this article below; see clipping at right — double click to enlarge.)

Vernon News article: Heddle Motor trip from Oyama to Vancouver
The Vernon News

I began to wonder in what year this trip was made.  Aside from the fact that Heddle began the trip on Wednesday, July 12, we have little information. Heddle provided one other pertinent fact. His car number was 2474. As a previous blog indicated, car registrations in early British Columbia were recorded and the registration books are available on-line.

1913 Cadillac
1913 Cadillac. This photo is taken from the Internet. For more views, interior & exterior, go to The Vault Classic Cars site --

Sure enough, W. T. Heddle of Oyama registered his new auto, a Cadillac, Number 2474, in 1915 and sold it in 1919. So, the trip must have been taken during World War One. I examined a perpetual calendar and found that between 1915 and 1919 the only year on which July 12 fell on a Wednesday was 1916. So, Heddle made this trip in 1916 and it was newsworthy enough to record in the Vernon News.



W. T. Heddle of Oyama Journeys from Vernon to Vancouver via Wenatchee

Had No Maps or Directions – Gains Valuable Information For Motorists

A motor trip taken from Vernon , B. C. by way of the Okanagan route through the State of Washington to Wenatchee and across the state by way of the Blewitt and Snoqualmie Passes and thence from Seattle to Vancouver, by Mr. W. T. Heddle of Oyama, B.C. has furnished some valuable information to those who may be aspiring to take a like trip.

Mr. Heddle, in a comprehensive log of the journey says:

Left Oyama, fourteen miles south of Vernon, Wednesday July 12 at 8:12 a.m., automobile No 2474, carrying two passengers and baggage; also one axe, one shovel, coil of rope, some wire, one double and one single block, some cup grease and oil, and a five gallon spare tin for gasoline – the latter as a safeguard. A camera also should not be overlooked.

Ran to Kelowna in one hour, twenty-three miles; road fine and took ferry across Okanagan Lake to Westbank. Ferry leaves Kelowna 9 a.m. daily, also 11 a.m. Wednesday and Saturday, and again at 3:30 p.m. daily. We missed and made a special trip. Ran to Peachland, sixteen miles, for lunch; road good. During lunch a very heavy rain storm made the road to Summerland, which is poor, slippery.

Summerland to Penticton

From Sumerland to Penticton road is excellent. Arrived Penticton at 4:55 p.m. Passed Okanagan Falls at 7:15. Roads excellent and beautiful country to the boundary, at Oroville, which was reached at 8:20 p.m., distance covered being a little over 100 miles.

The little town of Okanagan, the county seat, was reached at 10:55, and the courthouse visited in a vain hope of obtaining a road map of Washington. Mr. Kerr of the First National Bank stated that maps could be obtained by writing to the Washington State highway commissioners at Olympia. Whilst later on we secured an excellent road map published by the Inland Automobile Association at Spokane, Wash., at the price of 50 cents.

Thrill for Nerves

Passing through Malott the north bank of the Columbia River was reached at Brewster at 1:35 p.m. At Brewster we had covered 138 miles. Arrived at Lake Chelan at 4:55 p.m., a most beautiful spot, surrounded by mountains, whose tops still carry snow, whilst the water of the lake is of Alpine blueness. From Chelan the north bank of the Columbia is again reached by a zig-zag road calculated to thrill the nerves of any driver, in fact, the suggestion was made that a derrick should be used, and the car swung out and lowered down. However, we reached the bottom in safety, and a few minutes later met a car, it being now 6p.m. Thursday, which had left Vancouver at 9 a.m. Wednesday, making by fast and early and late travelling, some 350 miles in less than two days, and passing two mountain passes on the way.

The Block System

Passing Winesap, we reached Wenatchee at 11:15 p.m. Leaving at 8:40 a.m. Friday, Cashmere was passed, and the road follows up Peshastin Creek, rising sharply to begin the ascent of Blewitt Pass. After about an hour of this the true pass is reached, where a block system is in force for some seven or eight miles, and cars allowed to go west for about an hour, when the traffic is turned and crawls east, or climbs is the proper word, as the road, if it can be so called, is very narrow, very rough, very sinuous, and alternates between steep and very steep. We certainly had not realized before what a car could climb. We saw numerous broken down autos by the way, and very much muscle was being used, all helping to help those in misfortune. However, 2474 sparked along alone and needed no hand.

Accidents have occurred, as the day before a car went off the trail, overturned and fell, some …(indistinct) out of the five occupants going to the hospital, we heard, in the same car, after it had been got on the road below.

The descent on the west is much better and the road soon becomes very good. Passing Liberty and the (indistinct), we camped, before dark and started at 4:30 a.m. Saturday for Snoqualmie Pass, 3010 feet elevation. Before starting, tires which had not been touched up to this, were inspected and it was decided to put a little American air into the two rear. This was done, oil given to engine, and grease cups refilled.

Rain commenced and lasted almost continuously to Vancouver. Distance covered to date, 368 miles. Passed Easton, road excellent, and climbing gradually and easily, high gear used freely and intermediate only occasionally.

The summit as reached at 10:10 and here on good wide level road, occurred our first mishap, a drain dug too deep across the road, was not seen in time to slow, and the jolt snapped a leaf in front spring. This was quickly and tightly wrapped with wire and gave no more trouble. Whilst the road is here cleared from snow, it lies piled two to six feet high on each side and still lies thick under the trees. Scenery indescribably grand. Descended on perfect roads, making great time, passed North Bend 10:40 a.m., Falls City, Tolt, and Novelty, we lunched at Munroe, leaving there at 1:40 p.m. Hereabouts roads are under repair and wheeling is not so satisfactory. Passed Snohomish, Granite Falls and reached Arlington at 9:15 p.m., making nearly 150 miles this day. This called for a good rest and a start was not made until 11!0 a.m. Sunday, Vancouver being reached at 10:40 p.m. by the Pacific Highway, passing Bellingham and Blaine, roads being in very bad shape, from rain, and under repair; outside both the last-mentioned places chains being used there only during the trip. Mileage registered on the odometer 622.

No tire trouble of any kind, front tires not even calling for inflation.

Interior weather warm, mountain weather fine, and cool, coast weather wet.

Old Vernon Road by Crystal Waters
Old Vernon Road by Crystal Waters, submitted by Murray Thom

Source of article: probably The Vernon News

Source of photographs: The Vault Classic Cars, and Murray Thom.


  • My grandmother IG (Gertie) Pooley recorded a similar family trip in her diary in 1925 from Kelowna to Vancouver and back via Wenatchee and Cle Elum. The downward journey took two and a half days with thirty three hours on the road. The return trip took over two days with another twenty six hours on the road, for a total of almost sixty hours of driving. On the return journey, she notes “three cars overturned, two on Blewett Pass near summit,” and at Oroville she notes,” customs closes at 8 o’clock, had to hurry on to Osoyoos.” The final note mentions catching the ferry at 11:10 pm and having a late meal in Kelowna. The family gets home to East Kelowna at 1:30 am. Saturday July 4.

  • My Mother told of driving up the Blewwett Pass in the early 19 hundreds when the two women of the party walked some of the way as it was too scary to be in the car on such a narrow steep road.

  • I have just read the latest museum post on W.T. Heddle’s trip to Vancouver, probably in July, 1916. It prompted me to send you this photo from my mother’s original collection. Of interest to me in the Heddle trip posting was that my grandfather, OW Hembling, moved to Oyama in 1917 and purchased the house built by Mr. Heddle and his brother in 1908. The house was known as Pinehurst Ranch and is located on the property now known as Teddy Bear Lodge. My mother grew up in this home until she married my father in 1933. Grandfather sold the house about 1956 and continued to live north of the packing house between Kalamalka and Wood Lakes until his death in 1967.

    I may have passed the original post card to the Lake Country Museum earlier along with a picture of the Pinehurst Ranch home. I am attaching a photo of the home I took in 2012.

    In the photo centre just past the road at the corner, one can see the sharp rock which, as kids, we always thought looked like a sinking ship. Although now well below the current road as it passes Crystal Waters, the rock can still be seen.

    I hope this information is of some interest. I do enjoy receiving the LC Museum newsletter.


    Murray Thom

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