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Vernon to Kelowna was no small trip in 1898

“William Charles and Matilda Jane (nee Brown) Clement and daughter Mabel Matilda Clement arrived in Vernon in mid-October 1897, having travelled by train from their home near Treherne, Manitoba. Several days later, three of their four sons, William James, John Percy, and Ernest Leslie Clement, joined them at Vernon, having accompanied the Clement family’s possessions in a train box car. The Clement family spent the winter of 1897 – 1898 in the North Okanagan.

Ernie and Percy Clement
Ernie and Percy Clement accompanied their father on an arduous trek in 1898 from Vernon to Kelowna. Percy wrote about the trip in 1965. Photo contributed.

In late March 1898, having heard of more promising economic prospects in the recently-established community of Kelowna, William Charles Clement and his sons Percy and Ernest, headed south to Kelowna, the plan being to move to that community.

In 1965, Percy Clement, then 85 years old, wrote a detailed history of the Clement, including the 1898 trip from Vernon to Kelowna:

Starting early on March 29, 1898 we took the road south [from Vernon] for Kelowna. Our wagon loaded with a quantity of household effects was drawn by a team of horses driven by father. We also took along a milking cow and yearling heifer. Ernest, my brother, and I took turns in keeping two these animals moving along the road, as they had a habit of wandering everywhere but the way we wanted them to. The road climbed steadily for the first four miles through a district which several years before had been reserved for the residents of Vernon, to pasture their cows, and was called the Commonage. After reaching the highest point the road descended for some distance by many crooks and bends until it reached the shore of Long Lake, now named Kalamalka. This lake which is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the province is also known as the lake of many colors. We proceeded south quite close to the shore and reached a narrow strip of land which separated Long (Kalamalka) and Wood Lake, so named back in the 1870’s I think, probably by its [similar] appearance to a railway which viewed from a distance. Many years later the Canadian National [Railway] used this strip in crossing from one side of the valley to the other. Passing along “Wood Lake” we reached the Postill ranch [near Duck Lake] and as nightfall was close and realizing it would be impossible to reach Kelowna for many hours, we decided to spend the night there. After securely tethering our horses and cows the three of us, with a number of quilts, climbed over the rail fence and bedded down at the foot of one of Postill’s haystacks. Ernest and I being healthy young fellows and very tired from our long walk were soon fast asleep. The night was clear with a slight tang in the air but we spent the time quite comfortably. In what seemed only a matter of minutes the sun rose over the eastern mountains and father routed us from our slumber. After a hurried breakfast the horses were hitched to our wagon and we were again on our way.

Father had been told of a road branching off from the one we had been travelling so we turned into it, as by doing so, roughly six miles would be saved. The district through which it passed was then known as “Dry Valley”, and as we proceeded we realized the name was quite appropriate as we passed several dilapidated houses and weed grown fields. We learned there was no water to be had for irrigation. Several years later water was piped from a distance and it is now [1965] the district of Glenmore with fine homes and miles of beautiful orchards. We passed along with throats and nostrils filled with dust which rose in great clouds. In a couple of hours we reached a very fine stream [probably Mill Creek] where we and our animals drank our fill. We were then in what was then called “Mission Valley” and everywhere was green and luxuriant growth. Proceeding along, in about an hour, we entered the town of Kelowna. It was then a very small place with the main street, Bernard Avenue, footing on Okanagan Lake. Father had rented a house, built originally as a livery stable, but never used for that purpose. We moved into a couple of rooms at the northern end of this building, the south end being occupied by a couple of bachelors, Frank Small and Ernest Evans. This building was located at about 242 Lawrence Avenue, where Taylor, Pearson & Carson are now [1965]. The following day [March 31, 1898] Ernest returned to Vernon, to continue his schooling.

The Clement family arrived in Kelowna on March 30, 1898. Kelowna was only six years old, having been established in 1892.

William Charles and Matilda Jane Clement soon had their six children all locate in the Central and South Okanagan. Clement Avenue, one of Kelowna’s longest and busiest thoroughfares, is named for the pioneer Clement family.

Today, many Clement descendants live in the Okanagan Valley, proud of their pioneer heritage and grateful that their ancestors chose to move to this beautiful part of British Columbia.

The author’s late mother, Wilma Doreen Hayes, the daughter of Ernest Leslie Clement, was very proud of her Clement family’s contributions to the history of the Central Okanagan. I lovingly dedicate this article in her memory.”

By Robert M. “Bob” Hayes

Director of the Lake Country Historical & Cultural Society

Source: This article was previously published in The Daily Courier, July 17, 2017, p. B4.


  • I assume that Les Clement (and family) of Winfield was a member of this family. Les, of course, was instrumental in turning Winfield into a stop for travellers along Highway 97. Karen Clement, his daughter, was a member of George Elliot High School’s first graduating class, along with me and 16-17 others.
    The Clement family has left its mark on the beautiful Okanagan valley–and likely continues to do so.

  • Interesting…keep ’em coming !!

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