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Carney the Character

In response to last week’s blog post about colourful Tom Carney I have received e-mails from two nieces and a nephew of Tom Carney. These descendants of John Joseph Carney (1859 – 1943) have supplied more interesting information about the Carney family.

In his e-mail nephew Jim added more of his uncle Tom’s witticisms:

Tom had a wonderful wit. When we visited John Joseph’s grave on the hillside property donated for a cemetery by Tom, someone asked him why he didn’t have it fenced. Tom’s reply: “Why should I have it fenced; the people who are in there can’t get out and the ones that aren’t don’t want to get in.” Another line from a transcript of a long autobiographical Tom dictated to a tape recorder: “I quit school in Grade Twelve. I realized later it was a huge mistake. I should have quit in Grade eight”… Wonderful man.1

Jim Carney also included an article about his grandfather (John Joseph Carney) which was excerpted from The History of Ellison District 1858-19582. It is reproduced below.


(b. 1859 East Oxford, Ont. d. Kelowna BC 1943)

JOHN JOSEPH CARNEY was typical of the many Eas­terners who came to the Okanagan before the end of the century. Born of Irish parents near Woodstock, Ont., he came with friends to Sicamous in 1891. He worked for some time on the railway and helped to clear the right-of-way for Sicamous & Okanagan Rail­way. Deciding to remain in the Okanagan, he worked for Cor­nelius O’Keefe for two years and also helped build many of the Russell fences on the B.X. property.

In 1893 he met and married Miss Bridget Casey who had come out from Ottawa to visit friends in Vernon. During this year he first came into the district as manager of the Simpson Ranch recently purchased by The Honourable Price Ellison from Geo. W. Simpson. After acting as manager for two years he rented the ranch from 1895-1900. The Simpson Ranch of that day was com­prised of seventeen hundred and sixty acres. Cattle, hogs, horses, hay and grain were the main products.

John Joseph Carney
John Joseph Carney with his horse Billy

Mr. Carney took up a pre-emption of three hundred and twenty acres on the hill above the Rutland flat, part of which is now in orchard and owned by George Day. During this time an area of approximately twelve hundred acres, comprising most of the Rutland flat could have been purchased for the price of $1.00 per acre. As there was no water available, no one bought it. While still living on the Simpson Ranch, Mr. Carney bought the property where his daughter Mrs. Catherine Neave now lives, from Joseph Brent. A previous owner had been Francois Ortoland who had first come from Hope with Father Pandosy in 1862.

Bridget Casey Carney
Bridget Carney (née Casey), wife of John Joseph Carney
F. Ortoland's log cabin
F. Ortoland’s log cabin, built circa 1862
John Joseph Carney house
John Joseph Carney house, built by Joseph Brent & C. Levasseur

Ortoland’s mar­riage to the widow of the Flathead Indian who had come to the district with Father Pandosy in 1859, was the first one recorded at the Mission site. The log cabin built by this man stood for years on the Carney farm. Before Mr. Carney bought the farm a large log house had been built by Joseph Brent with the help of C. Le­vasseur. This house is still being used and is a marvelous example of the work done by the early axe-men.

In 1900 Mr. Carney moved to his own property, made up of S.W. 1/4 of Section 11, N.W. ¼ of Section 2. At that time the district, as well as the rest of the Okanagan, was devoted to cattle raising and Mr. Carney continued to raise cattle, hogs and horses and hay and grain after much of our district had turned to fruit farming. In early days his cattle were sold to buyers com­ing through each spring and fall. The hogs were ear-marked and turned out to fatten on the wheat stubble, then rounded up and driven on foot to Vernon, a slow, tedious trip. The wheat was hauled to Vernon with team and heavy wagon. For a time all banking for the district was done in Vernon and most of the house­hold supplies were brought home on the return trip.

Mr. and Mrs. Carney lived on their farm until their death and they saw many changes take place around them. At one time their only access to the main Vernon Road was through the field now owned by their son Thomas. This road had seven gates where it passed through different fields.

The family often drove to Kelowna through Dry Valley which was the shortest route. The Carneys lived to have the rail­road pass so close to them that the house had to be moved. They also saw the cut-off road completed in passing right by their farm. To-day Highway 97 with its continual noise of traffic, passes this once quiet spot. Mr. John Carney died in 1943 at the age of eighty-four, and Mrs. Carney in January 1944.

Even in a district noted for its hospitality, Mr. and Mrs. Carney were outstanding. Nothing was too good for visitors, and no work was difficult if it added to the enjoyment of their guests. Carney’s pond was the centre of winter sports and many a tall pine tree was cut down to provide the magnificent bonfires that gave heat and light for skating parties. Those of us who grew up in the district can recall many happy evenings spent in the Carnev home, where we could always expect refreshments, es­pecially Mrs. Carney’s homemade wild strawberry jam! The eve­nings usually ended with a sing-song before the sleigh ride home.

Mrs. Carney owned a sewing machine that had been packed in on horseback over the Hope-Princeton Trail for Mrs. Price Ellison. She was an excellent needlewoman and made practically all the clothes required by her family.

Mr. Carney was known as a far-sighted and careful farmer. His gift of humor, no doubt from his Irish heritage, was greatly appreciated. He could tell an excruciatingly funny story with a perfectly serious face, and often took part in early entertainments at the school where his Irish songs and recitations brought down the house. His quick wit in debates, too, usually made him the victor. A true pioneer, Mr. Carney continued to ride horseback, often long distances, until shortly before his death. There were four children.

JOHN JAMES CARNEY, born August 31st, 1894, on the Simpson ranch where his father was manager, attended the local schools and Vancouver Normal. After teaching at Flagstone, B.C., he enlisted in 1916 and served overseas in the 72nd Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders. He was granted the Military Medal at Amiens in 1917 and was promoted to Lieutenant. He went to China in 1922, where he served three years with the International Police and fourteen years with the Public Health Department. He married Miss Dora Sanders of South Africa and Toronto in Shanghai in 1934. They have four children; Patricia, Jim. Norah and Tom.3 After returning to Canada, Mr. Carney enrolled in Ontario Veterinary College and graduated in 1944. For ten years Dr. Carney has been Veterinary Inspector in Nelson.

The Children of John James and Dora Carney
The children of John James and Dora Carney: Pat, Tommy, Norah, and Pat’s twin, Jim.4

CATHERINE, the eldest girl in the Carney family, was born on the Simpson Ranch. She received her High School edu­cation at Rideau St. Convent in Ottawa. She then worked in the Royal Bank prior to her marriage to Percy Neave in 1921. There were three children in the family: Irma (Mrs. U. Felchle), Betty (Mrs. Tierney O’Keefe), and Leonard, City Assessor at Dawson Creek. Mr. and Mrs. Neave owned a farm and orchard in the Rutland district where Mr. Neave died in 1933. After the death of her parents, Mrs. Neave returned to live on the old farm that had been bought by her father from Joe Brent.

THOMAS J. CARNEY was two years old when his fam­ily moved from the Simpson Ranch to Springbank Farm in 1900. On his way to school he would pass the Michael Hereron farm. where he now lives, when it was dense bush. His mother had marked the route by tying white streamers on the branches. He worked on the farm after leaving school at fourteen, until he bought his present home from George Reith in 1932. He grows hay, and has a herd of Black Aberdeen Angus cattle. In 1922 he married Miss Margaret Cameron, who had come with her mother and sister Georgina, in 1914 from Scotland. They have two daugh­ters; Evelyn (Mrs. Lou Mushta), who lives in Seattle with her husband and two sons, and Anne (Mrs. Melbourne Richards), who is a research chemist with the B.C. Sugar Refinery in Van­couver.

As a young man, Tom once kept hounds and hunted coyotes on horseback, to help control them, for they had become a real menace, particularly to sheep owners.5

1Jim (John James) Carney, e-mail correspondence, January 30, 2016.

2D. Tutt, compiler. The History of Ellison District 1858-1958. [Kelowna, BC]: Ellison Centennial Committee, 1959 (1987 printing).pp. 34-39.

3John Joseph Carney’s son, John James Carney, and his wife, Dora Sanders had four children: twins Patricia and Jim (John James), Norah and Tom Carney. Patricia Carney is a Canadian Senator Emeritus. Twin brother Jim (John James) is a producer, broadcaster and communications consultant for Gemini Communications.

4Photograph provided by Jim Carney.

5Written by Mary Elizabeth Carney, R.N. who works as a path­ologist in Olympia, Washington. Carney wrote this article for inclusion in The History of Ellison District, 1858-1958.


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