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Colourful Tom Carney

Tom Carney was a colourful character. He was born on the Simpson Ranch in Rutland and in 1900 his family moved to the Carney Ranch on Highway 97 just north of the University of British Columbia Okanagan. The capital letters TC are still found on the side of a roadside building. My father (Harold Thomson) knew Mrs. Carney and heard numerous stories about Tom from her, including the stories about signs that her husband posted around his property to warn off trespassers. These read “People found here at night will be found here in the morning” or “Survivors will be prosecuted.”

TC = Tom Carney
TC = Tom Carney. This building sits beside Highway 97, just south of the Kelowna International Airport

Carney wrote a reminiscence about his Okanagan experiences which includes some stories about Lake Country and some insights into conflicts between neighbours in the pre-World War I era. He recalls that George Monford was manager for Price Ellison of the old Simpson and Postill ranches and when Ellison rented the Wood ranch in 1903, Monford took on management of that ranch as well. This was a huge ranch, running from Leathead Road nearly to Wood Lake. After Monford bought his own place, Ellison had difficulty finding competent managers.

In his colourful and unconventional way Carney wrote about cattle drives to Vernon:

When Ellison moved their stock up the valley they always had a gang who didn’t know B from A bulls foot and unintentionally ended up with a lot of cattle that didn’t belong. A lot of settlers seeing red and ride to Vernon and as mad as a wet hen and would hammer out a settlement with Price who seemed to be the brunt of his ranch hands carelessness.

Letters found in the Rainbow Ranche Collection at the Lake Country Museum and Archives provide further information about these conflicts. The letters are written to Frank Hewer, part owner of the Rainbow Ranche, from a Vernon lawyer.

Correspondence Rogers to Hewer
Vernon lawyer, R. H. Rogers, writes to F. A. Hewer of the Rainbow Ranche

It is apparent from this letter that Hewer was suing Ellison for trespass and damages feasant (damages caused by cattle).

A second letter concerns the same Hewer suing Mr. Petrie, M.P. Williams’ manager, for damages caused by trespass. In both cases the lawyer reported no success on the trespass issue due to the Rainbow Ranche not having built a legal fence to keep trailed cattle from wandering on to the Rainbow property. These offenses apparently occurred when the cattle of Price Ellison and M.P. Williams were being driven for sale along the road passing through the Rainbow Ranche and over the Commonage to the railhead in Vernon.


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