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Bishop Sillitoe's Visits to Osoyoos

by Katie Lacey


Some idea of the rugged individuals that were found in all walks of life amongst the early settlers of this province can be gathered by following some of the journeyings of Bishop Sillitoe, on which he was invariably accompanied by his wife.

The Bishop had the prospects of going far in the Ministry of England, even a possibility of becoming Archbishop of York or Canterbury.  However, when the call came for volunteer work in the far west, he answered, and came to B.C. in 1879.  As Bishop of New Westminster, his duties carried him over immense territory, which he and his wife traveled in all kinds of weather, mostly on horseback.

The following account of Bishop Sillitoe’s first visit to Osoyoos is taken from the OHS Report # 18, 1954.

Bishop Sillitoe, accompanied by his wife, and Indian George and Mrs. Sillitoe’s horse Punch, traveled from New Westminster to Hope by steamer, September 8, 1880.  Landing at Hope, arrangements were made for another Indian, Antoine, and 5 horses at $4.50 per day and Susap on horse at $1.50 per day.  The rest of the day was spent in buying stores, paying visits, administering baptisms, and recovering strayed horses.

The next day the party set out over the Hope Trail at 7:45 a.m. and in spite of the rain, covered 24 miles that day.  The night was cold and frosty and the camp cheerless.  Beds were made of fir boughs, and unless properly made were plenty hard, but luckily the Indians were adept at this chore.

Mrs. Sillitoe describes the next day, Saturday, thus:

“Our way was a narrow trail around the mountainside, and there were some frightful places to cross.  Punch jumped beautifully with me over a tree lying across the road fully three feet in diameter.  It was amusing to see the pack horses get over.  They managed by jumping to get their forelegs over, and were then quite at fault, finally, with their hind legs they scrambled over like cats.

“Groves of young fir trees, through which rippled beautiful trout streams, tracts of burnt timber, forests full of grouse, and, moreover, infested with myriads of caterpillars – then the open country at 2 pm.  After this camp the descent through a bleached forest full of grasshoppers, and at last the camp was made at Powder Camp.

“On Sunday, after a hunt for the horses and a bath in the creek, service was held in camp, and the day’s rest was a welcome preparation for the toil yet to come.

“Next day for several hours a very rough country was experienced, but the labor received its recompense when the party entered upon a beautiful open and undulating country like an English Park, with this difference, that white pines took the place of the ancestral oaks.  In the middle, a great heard of cattle were encountered.

“Similkameen came in sight during the afternoon from a high bluff overlooking the river, and after a one hour’s descent the river was reached, only to find the bridge broken.  Camp was made for the night.”

On the following Thursday, the travelers reached Osoyoos and were glad to rest until Sunday, when services were held and everyone in Osoyoos attended.

“The Bishop observed here that the soil was apparently barren, but with sufficient irrigation, it seemed capable of producing anything.  Potatoes were seen weighing three and four pounds each, and garden turnips twenty-seven inches around, while melons and tomatoes ripened freely in the open air.”

The second visit of the Sillitoes to Osoyoos was in August 1883.  There were only two families on the Canadian side, the Haynes and the Krugers.  At the American Customs there were more people, including a troop of U.S. cavalry, escort to General Sherman.  Encamped there, Judge Haynes and Bishop and Mrs. Sillitoe went by rowboat to the foot of the lake and proceeded on foot, a short distance, to the camp, the rest of the families going on horseback.  The camp had been made ready for the service, sacks of oats served as seats and camp chests for the pulpit under an awning made of green boughs and poles.  Four children were baptized, August and Theodore (Babe) Kruger, Harry Grainger, and a fourth, unknown.

With reference to irrigation in Bishop Sillitoe’s first visit to Osoyoos, both Judge Haynes and Theodore Kruger had very good gardens and fruit trees – apples and peaches, mostly seedlings they had procured from Okanogan Smith at the foot of the lake.  Kruger had his garden along the lake where Lakeshore Road now is.  Kruger hired “Chinamen” to pack water in cans to irrigate his trees and garden until he got a windmill and storage tank.  Judge Haynes irrigated in the same way, but he employed Indians and there was also a good spring on the property across the lake.