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The Churches of Incameep


by Katie Lacey

(as published in the Okanagan Historical Society's 25th Report,1961, pp. 76-77)


From the pages of the House Diary of St. Francis Regis Mission at Kettle Falls, Washington, the following was taken:

"May 11, 1870. Today about 10 o'clock Fr. Joset started for a missionary tour of the Okinagan and then down the Columbia river, purposed to remain at the Sanpoilshi at the time of their fishing the salmon, then come up the Columbia and be back to St. Paul by the time the Spoielpi will begin their fishing at Kettle Falls (St. Paul) completing his tour in a month and a half about; taking for companion Kalosaskat; for provisions 100 lb. white flour. 20 lb. short., 20 lb. dry smoked meat, coffee, etc. He has been instructed to leave to Fr. Pandosi those Okinagans who have built for Fr. Pandosi a chapel on the very division line, but to notify this to the same Father that we may be certain those Indians are attended to."

From Dr. John Goodfellow, of Princeton, who in company with the late Alan McDonald of Oliver, interviewed Chief Baptiste George at Incameep on July 11, 1933, we received the following from his notes, as they were interpreted to him by the old chief's granddaughter . . . The original Church was the windowless building by the cemetery and that Baptiste George was baptized there in the 1860s.

From Chief Manuel Louie we learned that the original church was closer to where the present church is and being told through an interpreter could account for a slight variation there. The foundation of the original church can still be found.

Somehow it did not seem possible that the Indians of the 1860s could have put up a building such as stands by the cemetery today. The early Indian-built churches were of log construction, windowless, pole and sod roof or shakes, dirt floors and tulle mats, no seats. We apparently have proof that such a building did exist there and no doubt is the one mentioned in the Kettle Falls Mission Diary.

A person named "Boots" had been mentioned in Judge Haynes magistrate book who had done carpenter work in the early days. Mrs. Matilda Dalrymple was asked if she remembered hearing of such a person, and after considerable thought told us of a roving carpenter named "Boots" and who the Indians called "Pooch." It was because of these peculiar names that she was able to remember him. She also told us she could remember the older people telling of Fr. Pandosi sending to Rock Creek for Boots to build a church. He went back to Rock Creek and brought two Chinamen who cut the logs and shakes and whipsawed the lumber for this church which is the one that stands beside the cemetery. It was probably built with the help of the Chinamen and Indians. The logs were all cut in the draw below Mike Gallagher's place.

Mrs. Dalrymple was born in 1873 and was living with her parents at Okanagan Falls, and when she was about six years old she and her brother ran away from home and on the way hid in this church. Also from Chief Manuel Louie we learned that it was there when he was a small boy so that it must have been built before 1880.

In 1880 Mrs. Haynes was staying at New Westminster and Judge Haynes wrote to her in September of that year to say that "Purdy is putting up the bell at the little mission at Incameep", Mrs. Haynes had ordered the bell and donated it to the church. It was mounted on a scaffolding beside the church and is the same bell that is in use in the present church. The present church was built about 1911, and the lumber was all hauled from Okanagan Falls by Wm. Hines.

The old church that stands beside the cemetery is still in very good condition and could be restored without too much expense, and it would be a fitting counterpart to the Pandosi Mission at Okanagan Mission. Further research and checking will no doubt bring to light more proof and dates. We are indebted to Sister Maria Ilma O.P. of Spokane for her help in research.

The expression "division line" is not exactly clear yet.