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Early settlers in the Okanagan Valley

From 1860 a steady settlement of the Valley took place and among the first four cattle men who came in was Thomas Wood. He first had a cattle ranch with Connie (Cornelius) O’Keefe, north of Vernon but soon moved to the Pelmewash lake, now known as Wood Lake, utilizing the rangeland on the east side of the lake for grazing his herds of cattle.

Winfield Lodge, 1900.
Winfield Lodge, 1900. Click to enlarge.

Thomas Wood1 was the son of a clergyman in Newfoundland. He built a log and whip-sawn lumber home and named his ranch “Winfield Lodge” from which this district has taken its name. Mr. Wood married a sister2 of Mr. Whelan, an early settler in the Ellison district and father of Mrs. Clement, Sr. of the Winfield store. There were three daughters of the Wood family3 — Forence, May and Ruth4.

Mr. Wood’s ranching was chiefly in stock, but he planted a small orchard around the house and there are still a few trees remaining. A private telephone was constructed between the Wood and the Postill ranches, the first by many years, in the district.

The wild grass was so luscious that no provision was made for winter feed for cattle — they had to rustle; but in the very hard winter of 1892 when thousands of head of cattle died from starvation between Penticton and Kamloops, Thomas Wood saved a large proportion of his cattle by cutting brush of willow, pine and fir and strewing it round for feed. That year, when the ice of the lake broke up it was found to be three feet thick.

Tom Wood brought in the first plow and hay mower into the district, fetching them from Sicamous where they were taken to pieces and brought the rest of the distance by pack horses.5

1 There is much information on this website about Thomas Wood. See Thomas Wood settles; History and Photograph Thomas Wood; Celebrate Family Day and a Pioneer Lady.

Ellen Florence “Nellie” Whelan married Thomas Wood on July 1, 1889.

3 Hayes, Robert. Celebrate Family Day and a Pioneer Lady. [Mrs. Nellie Wood].

A daughter, Winifred, born in 1895, died in 1898, only three years old.

5 Powley, Mrs. W. R., comp. Winfield 1958. Early days of Winfield, B.C. n.p.: Winfield Women’s Institute, 1958. p. 10.

Photograph: property of Lake Country Museum and Archives.


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