Within the boundaries of the District of Lake Country, there are several cemeteries: Oyama Community Cemetery, on Oyama Road; Winfield Cemetery, on Newene Road; Old Winfield / Okanagan Centre Cemetery, on Cemetery Road; and two First Nations burials in a small cemetery on Jim Bailey Road. All of these burial grounds are important links with the people and history of what is now the District of Lake Country, and study has been conducted into most these sites.
However, this list is not complete. There is another burial ground – albeit not located within the boundaries of the District of Lake Country – that has a very deep past and is certainly worthy of study.
Duck Lake Cemetery is located to the north west of Duck Lake, across Highway 97 from Duck Lake Reserve #7. This reserve, dating back to the 1800s, is not large in size and it falls under the jurisdiction of the Head of the Lake Band, at Vernon. Duck Lake Cemetery is on private land and is thus not accessible to the general public.
Unfortunately, there are no official burial records known for Duck Lake Cemetery. There was apparently a small Roman Catholic Church located near this cemetery, but it burned to the ground, possibly destroying any burial records which might have existed.
However, the late Alliss Miller (nee Bailey), whose family lived on Reserve #7, had a keen interest in Duck Cemetery. Many members of Alliss Miller’s family are buried in this small historic cemetery, and for a number of years Alliss and her family did an annual spring clean-up of the cemetery, removing weeds, straightening and painting the picket fence which surrounds this burial site, and giving the site the attention that it deserves. There are no extant burial markers on the graves, and it estimated that there may be as many as 50 burials in Duck Lake Cemetery.
Alliss Miller’s ongoing interest in Duck Lake Cemetery no doubt influenced her to write a list of people whom she knew to be buried in this cemetery, as well as the general location of these burials. These two documents – a list of burials, and a map of these burials – has been most helpful to the Kelowna & District Genealogical Society’s (KDGS) ongoing project to write the history of this cemetery, as well as provide information about the individuals (and their families) who are buried in Duck Lake Cemetery. A KDGS publication about Duck Lake Cemetery, running to more than 50 pages, will hopefully be available later this year to local historians.
Four well-known local families account for most of the burials in Duck Lake Cemetery: Bailey, McDougall, Simpson, and Steele. Various sources have been used, by KDGS researchers, to learn about these families, including people who have relatives buried in Duck Lake Cemetery. Shirley Louis (nee Miller, daughter of the late Alliss Miller) has been very helpful with the Duck Lake Cemetery research project. She has generously provided access to her two books about local First Nations history, and has shared some wonderful family photographs which will appear in the upcoming history of Duck Lake Cemetery.
The earliest documented burial in Duck Lake Cemetery is David Joseph McDougall, who died at Westbank in 1912. There are earlier “probable” burials, including a member of the Simpson family in the 1890s, and Eliza Jane Simpson (nee Christien), who died at Duck Lake Reserve in late June of 1909. The last burial in Duck Lake Cemetery is probably Emily Louise Bailey (nee McDougall), who died in Kelowna on July 3, 1938, at the age of 43 years. Emily Louise Bailey, Alliss Miller’s mother, also had five infants/young children buried in Duck Lake Cemetery.
The names and dates of all those who are buried in Duck Lake Cemetery will probably never be known. However, continued research will hopefully shed more light on this important part of the history and the people Reserve #7 and of the District of Lake Country.
By Robert M. “Bob” Hayes, Director of the Lake Country Heritage and Cultural Society