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History of the V Bar V ranch in Oyama, the Bovee families

At least five families contributed to the development of the V Bar V ranch in Oyama.[1] The first were the Bovee brothers and their families.

 The original pre-emptors of the V Bar V were the Bovee brothers, Manfred Leroy Sanford (b. 19 Sept 1858) and Orbie Orville (b. 23 Jan 1861) They were born in Jefferson County, Iowa and moved to Oregon where they married two Parker girls, Martha “Mattie” (b. 3 October 1872) and Florence May (b. 19 November 1869), respectively. These two families immigrated to British Columbia in 1894 and established a ranch high up east of the Oyama isthmus.[2]

The Bovee children were likely the first children born to settlers in the Railroad [Oyama] district. Manfred and Mattie arrived with one child, Walter Grove (b. 19 September 1891), and after arrival they had another child, Florence Olive (b. 29 April 1896). Orbie and May had two children on arrival, Mabel Louise (b. 9 March 1889) and Harriet “Hattie” Angeline (b. 14 June 1891) and two more – Arthur Franklin (b. 28 February 1896) and Louis Grant (b. 7 June 1897) were born on the ranch. Unfortunately, Mattie died on 12 July 1895 from a rattlesnake bite. 

An early Oyama settler, Jazeb Kneller, wrote of visit to the Bovees:

We had no road on the Railroad in 1898, but we drove on the Wood Lake shore. I then kept going straight east, up the mountain, first coming to the Orby Bovee place, then on to the Manford Bovee pre-emption. Each had likely pre-empted one hundred and sixty acres. Manford Bovee had cut off pine trees level with the ground and cultivated the land, irrigating two or more acres, growing oats for hay, I saw a few fruit trees growing so I ask him about peach trees having fruit. “Yes” he said, “they had.” And he had grown one and one half tons or more of oat hay to the acre. So, I settled east and above his place. There was a better place east and above my one hundred and sixty acres. I moved to my new quarter section with Alf Woodcroft and his brother Joe to put in the winter with me, so we soon had a cabin erected…. I reckon Manford Bovee grew the first peaches and fruit east of Oyama town….[3]

The Bovee brothers did not obtain a Crown Grant for their property and likely sold their pre-emption rights to William Furniss in 1898.

The history of the Bovee families in Oyama and later in the Commonage is one of struggling to gain an economic foothold in a frontier community. They pre-empted land under the terms then available, that is, with no money down and payment not needed until the owner applied for a Crown Grant. The V Bar V Ranch was not a unattractive property and was destined to become a viable operation under the stewardship of successive owners. The lack of services such as a school and medical care at the time must have been significant in the family’s decision to relocate. They moved to a property on the Commonage that was within walking distance of the Commonage School and only twelve miles from Vernon with its medical care.

The story of the Bovee families on the Commonage will follow in another blog.

[1] It is unclear when the ranch became known as the V Bar V. Perhaps it was the Bovee brothers who named it, with the “Vs” taken from their surname. Perhaps it was named by Fleetwood Wilson, a later owner who had, in the year previous to his purchase of the ranch, worked as a cowboy on the V Bar V ranch near Medicine Hat, AB.

[2] They pre-empted the SW ¼ of Sec 7 and the NW ¼ of Sec 6, Tp. 10 ODYD.

[3] Jazeb Kneller, “Jazeb Kneller Recalls Early Days,” Okanagan Historical Society Report 20:66-68.




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