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Richter Mountain Settlement


Later, a smaller and short-lived settlement of homesteaders tried their fortunes on the southern slopes of Mount Kobau. Their homesteads were located about a mile above the present Elkink Ranch (the old Richter Ranch) where Richter Creek flows through an area of open grass-covered hillsides.

Land was thrown open to homesteading in 1914 and, by 1920, most of the settlers had abandoned their holdings.

The tree-covered ridge, extending south and west of mount Kobau, was known in the early cays as "Richter Mountain". When a school was started in 1914 it was called the Boundary Valley School. We will keep the name of Richter Mountain as the settlers called it.

Most of our information comes from two articles in Reports of the Okanagan Historical Society. One is by Katie Lacey, entitled "Richter Mountain Settlement", in the 19th Report, pp. 45-50. The other is by Harvey Boone, entitled "A Fire Fighting Interlude," in the 28th Report, pp. 38-41.

Homesteaders listed by Mrs. Lacey include Mr. and Mrs. Harry Gray, the first of the homesteaders. Others were the Hobbs brothers, Edward and Hank (Lloyd?), who had a small sawmill, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Walker, Jasper Sharp and his daughter, Mrs. Tyson with four children, Mr. and Mrs. Al Smith. Also on the mountain were Andy Hamilton, Dave Orr, Harry Hanson and Harry Stevens. Most of these came north from the States.

One settler who stayed on was Frank Thomas, an Englishman who arrived on the mountain in 1916. He maintained himself mainly by working for the Richter and other ranches. In later years he picked fruit in Keremeos, returning to his lonely cabin on the mountain for the winter. His last years were spent in a cabin in Keremeos, given to Frank by a friend.

Both Mr. Boone and Mrs. Lacey have interesting if slightly conflicting stories of the beginning and ending of schooling for the settlement. Both are well worth quoting.

Harvey Boone stayed with Lloyd Hobbs while doing fire lookout duty in the early fall of 1914.  Quoting Mr. Boone:

"There were three families living on that part of the mountain where I was staying. The two Hobbs brothers, and a Mr. Smith, with a total of ten children of school age. The elder Mr. Hobbs had been corresponding with the Department of Education and had requested that a teacher be provided for these children. Receiving the assurance of Mr. Hobbs that adequate schoolroom accommodation and living quarters would be ready on time, the Department had finally agreed and early in September a young woman, Miss Irene McKenzie, arrived by spring-wagon drawn by a team of horses from Keremeos which was a considerable journey taking most of the day and costing, according to what she later told me, the last of her money. When she learned upon arrival that there was no school room yet ready, no adequate school supplies yet provided and that she would have to stay with the elder Mr. Hobbs who had the biggest family and also share a bed with the eldest girl, she was appalled. For a city-bred girl to land on top of a mountain under such circumstances was such a shock it is no wonder she broke down and wept, and of course she would have to teach for at least one month before she could draw any salary.

The Hobbs Bros. owned and operated a small sawmill and there was a considerable quantity of half-dry boards stacked on the mill site. Mr. Lloyd Hobbs and I discussed the situation that evening and decided we would try to get the school organized for a start the next Monday morning. The following morning, which was a Saturday, we set to work and built six double desks with seats, and a small table, smoothing the rough boards with a hand plane.

There was a small frame building a short distance from the mill site which was occupied by a man engaged in cutting logs for the mill. We prevailed upon this man to move out temporarily into other quarters, and by Sunday night we had succeeded in cleaning the place up, setting up the desks for the children, a table and chair for the teacher, and an air-tight heater for warmth when needed. On Monday morning school began.

On rising the morning of September 16th the sky had become overcast and wisps of fog were drifting along the mountain sides. Noting that the dry weather was about to end and my job with it, I rolled my blankets and started for Fairview and home, good and wet in the saddle before I arrived. The school was continued for about a month until the teacher received her first pay cheque when she resigned and departed. No attempt was ever made to get the school going again as the settlers there gave up and abandoned their homesteads on the mountain." pp. 40-41.

Mrs. Lacey gives the school a longer life.

"A Miss Morrow was the first teacher. She boarded with Mrs. Gray. The second year a young fellow named Richards from Vancouver taught, but when one of the parents thought he was paying too much attention to one of his pupils he was sent packing and the school closed down. Later, some of the seats and desks from this school were used in the first school in Osoyoos." pp. 47-49.

P.S. by Douglas Fraser.

I remember very well the double desks described by Mr. Boone used in the Osoyoos School when it opened in 1917. They were ideally adapted to co-operation by pupils of the same grade, but also lead to frequent disagreements over the sharing of the storage shelf for texts and scribblers. Inherited also was a
blackboard with a green surface (the object of many juvenile witticisms), some maps and some text-books. One of these, descended to me, "Milnes Progressive Arithmetic, Second Book", was originally issued to Lee Tyson, Boundary Valley School, September 21, 1914.

Incidentally, many of the problems in this Elementary text would be tough assignments in 1935 high schools.

We shared Boundary Valley pupils as well as equipment, for in order to have enough children for a school in Osoyoos in 1917, my father persuaded the Edward Hobbs family to move to Osoyoos. The children moved down and, in the care of the eldest daughter, Wave, lived in the residential quarters of the old government building. Another source of juvenile wit were occasions when the Hobbs children, having only to open a door to the schoolroom, were late for school.

Some of the Hobbs children whom I remember were Wave, greatly looked up to as a grade eighter, Glenn, Smith and Ernestine.

Their few years of homesteading must have left them with very pleasant memories, for they have made several visits to the site of their old home on Mount Kobau, some of them coming from as far as California to make the pilgrimage.