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The Cascadilla


by Katie Lacey

(as published in the Okanagan Historical Society's 25th Report,1961, pp. 145-146)


Few people today are aware of the fact that during the winter of 1860-61 Captain William H. Gray built a boat at the foot of Osoyoos Lake with the intention of hauling supplies for the "miners" who were then swarming all through the Interior. Gray had a ranch somewhere along the Okanogan river, but the boat was built just where the water flows out of Osoyoos Lake into the river at the Little Traverse as the ford here was known.

The big flats east of the river, all planted to thriving orchards now, was a favorite meeting place of the Indians where they came to fish, and race their horses, and to play their games. On the west side of the river the Hudson's Bay Company had a horse farm where horses for the brigade trail were conditioned and changes of horses available for the final stretch to Fort Okanogan or the trip north to Fort Kamloops, the next horse farm before their final destination at Fort Alexandria.

It was Captain Gray's intention to take the boat to Deschutes Falls, now known as Celilo, and bring back supplies but apparently after making the trip down, there is no record of any effort to return.

This boat was built during the winter of 1860-61. The lumber for it was all whipsawed and its dimensions were as follows – 91 ft. keel and 12 ft. beam. It was constructed without any tools other than a saw, a hatchet and a chisel. She was caulked with wild flax mixed with pitch from the pine trees.

This boat was named the Cascadilla and was launched May 10th, 1861, and floated safely down the Okanogan and Columbia rivers, running all the rapids without any trouble. She was used as a sailboat between Celilo and Vallulu for many years.

Captain Gray had come to Fort Vancouver Sept. 16th, 1836, with Dr, Marcus Whitman and Rev. Dr. Henry M. Spalding, Presbyterian missionaries, and their wives. Gray was a lay missionary and the mechanic and handy man of the party. He returned east during the winter of 1837-38 where he met Mary Augusta Dix, and after a whirlwind courtship of six days they were married Fe. 28, 1838, and left immediately for Oregon.

In 1887 Gray was operating a ferry between Pasco and Kennewick, ferrying trains across the river. Pasco at that time was a wide open town and Gray organized a Sunday School to get the youngsters off the streets. He could teach the lessons and lead the singing but was incapable of praying in public. He attempted to find some one for this task but was unable to do so until someone married a schoolteacher who could pray, who took the job over. In the meantime at someone else's suggestion Gray had mumbled a few words fast and ended with a loud Amen, and the children hadn't known the difference.


References:    Ka-mi-akin – W.J. Splawn.  Pasco Carnegie Public Library