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McCuddy's


by Katie Lacey

(as published in the Okanagan Historical Society's 21st Report, 1957, pp. 11-18)


John P. McCuddy was born in 1855, at Kenilworth, Ontario. When he was 14, his family moved to Chicago where, as he reached manhood, he became interested in bridge building, contracting in this business in the U.S. for a few years.

Returning to his native country, he took on contracts with the C.P.R., then building across Canada. Starting along the shores of Lake Superior, he took contracts across the prairies and through the mountains to the shores of the West Coast. Crossing the plains they found it necessary several times to make a circle of their wagons and fight off Indian attacks. While working in the Sicamous area McCuddy took a trip down the Okanagan Valley to see what the country was like, and made up his mind that he would go back there to live some day.

With the completion of the C.P.R. he returned to the States, where he engaged in the construction of several irrigation canals. He constructed the Bear River irrigation Canal at Salt Lake City, and several others in Colorado, New Mexico and Idaho.

While working on the New York canal at Boise, Idaho, he met and married Miss Sarah Jane Taylor on December 25th, 1890.

Born in Manti, Utah, February 10, 1866, Mrs. McCuddy's life was filled with the events of those who lived on the frontier. Her family lived in a white stone house at Marysville, Utah, which was later destroyed by an earthquake. Her father was an Indian Scout for the U.S. Government, and was awarded the United States Medal of Merit for his services when the Piute and Navajo Indian lands were being opened up for settlement. He always wore a red shirt and rode a white horse. During the eight years he was a scout he was never wounded. One day he failed to return. Other members of the expedition brought in his red shirt, but no trace was ever found of him or his horse.

Mrs. McCuddy was then only 2 years old and there was a younger sister. Her mother was forced to seek employment and travelled by stage with the two small girls to pick cotton. On a steep hill the doubletrees broke, and the stage hurtled backwards down the hill towards the Little Virgin River. The driver and other passengers jumped, but the young mother could not get out with the two small girls. On the very brink of the river the stage stopped up against a large stump.

When Mrs. McCuddy was six, her mother married a cattleman named Van Buren. Soon after this the government bought the ranch for a dam site and the family moved to Aurora, Oregon.

At the age of fourteen Mrs. McCuddy left home to do housework and care for children while she continued her schooling, later going to Normal. At her first school she had to walk several miles each day, armed with a pitchfork, through cougar-infested woods. During six years of teaching she became proficient as an elocutionist. By the time of her marriage she had acquired her first-class teaching certificate.

When the contract on the canal at Boise was completed the young couple moved to Spokane, where McCuddy took a contract for the Great Northern Railway, then building into Seattle. Moving with the construction crews, and living in tents, the McCuddys moved as far west as Wenatchee where, while working on the bridge across the Columbia River, Mr. McCuddy had the misfortune to get his leg crushed. A son, Arthur, was born at this time, both parents being in the same hospital at Portland, Oregon, at the same time.

When McCuddy was able to leave hospital, construction on the railroad had stopped. There was a financial panic in the States at that time. McCuddy left most of his equipment at Wenatchee and moved to Oroville, Washington, where they opened a store, and Mr. McCuddy became the second postmaster in Oroville. The large amount of equipment left at Wenatchee gradually disappeared.

In 1893 they moved to Okanagan Falls by way of Fairview, entering Canada through the Customs at Osoyoos, on July 12th, according to the Customs day book, T. Kruger Collector. They brought in with them a considerable amount of merchandise, the stock from the store Oroville.

Had Store in Tent

For a short time the McCuddys operated a store in a tent at Okanagan Falls. But the mining boom had commenced at Fairview, McKinney and in the Boundary country. Supplies for new claims were being packed in on horses over rough trails. The government had crews surveying a new road to Grand Forks, which would eventually link up with Marcus. Work had commenced on a road along the east side of Vaseux Lake south to join with the road from Fairview and McKinney, J. Schubert in charge. McCuddy was quick to see the possibilities ahead, and as he had long been wanting a ranch of his own he staked a pre-emption along the McKinney trail. The road crew constructing the new road were camped at the same location, and one of the crew decided he wanted the same place, but fortunately McCuddy got to Osoyoos and recorded his claim with the Government Agent C. A. R. Lambly two days before the other fellow.

On their first trip to the new ranch they took a large supply of groceries which they piled up on the ground, covered with a tarp, and put a fence around them while they went out for more supplies.

There was a large encampment of Indians nearby, and when they returned, two weeks later, the Indians were still there, and not one single thing was missing.

Everything for the house, which was to be a stopping place, flooring, windows, nails, building paper, hardware, in fact almost everything but the logs, were bought from Megaw's at Vernon and shipped down Okanagan Lake to Penticton, from there by boat and scow down the Okanagan River and Skaha Lake to Okanagan Falls. The road around Vaseux Lake was not completed at that time. There were two difficult humps that could only be negotiated by empty wagons. For several years an old seafaring captain named Maloney had been with McCuddy. Taking two wagons and teams he and Maloney went to the Falls and loaded up the freight and hauled it all down to the head of Vaseux Lake where they made a large raft, loaded everything on it and poled it down the lake, Maloney was in his element on the water and insisted on being the Captain with McCuddy the crew. Halfway down the lake a terrific wind storm came up threatening to pile the raft up on the rocks. Maloney, an excitable character at any time, was tearing up and down the raft, swearing and issuing orders to the "crew" to "keep poling and keep away from the rocks" till McCuddy had thought the joke had gone far enough and told him he had better become part of the crew too - and so they were able to make a safe landing at the foot of the lake. Returning on foot for the teams and wagons and they loaded up again and proceeded to the ranch.

With the launching of the Aberdeen on Okanagan Lake and the Jessie on Skaha Lake that hauled a scow of sorts from Penticton, and the completion of the new road to the Boundary country, Okanagan Falls became the jumping off place for the freight teams unless there was ice on the lake, and it became a hive of activity. William Snodgrass, who had come from La Grand, Oregon, brought in a complete sawmill. He had the first freight teams on the new haul and also the contract to haul mail and passengers to Grand Forks. He also owned the boat, the Jessie, which was sold after a few years and replaced by the Greenwood. This one later burned. Snodgrass also had a stopping place and a store at the Falls. In 1897 Jim Bassett, together with his four half-brothers, Dick, Top, Fred and Henry, came from Rossland to make their headquarters at the Falls and were followed in the same year by Bob Myerhoff and Charlie Snyder from the Boundary country. Charlie Snyder hauled the first load of ore into the smelter at Trail from the LeRoi mine at Rossland, hauling with sleighs, and dumped the ore on the ground. Other freighters hauling from Okanagan Falls were Jim Bell who brought his outfit in from Ashcroft; Harvey and Bill Garrison; Dune Gillis who drove four mules and who took up a ranch across from Rock Creek when the freighting gave out. Joe Cody and Curley Wells were two of Myerhoff's drivers. There were also Joe Brent and his son Ferdie, and Terry Mortimer who rolled his load over one of the sand hills and had to build a new grade to get his outfit out and which is still known as Mortimer's grade; and Cayuse Bill, so-called because he had six small horses and two wagons; and Harry Rose, who in 1890-91 had a contract to build the first bridge at Osoyoos over which wagons could pass, and later had a picture show at Princeton. Unfortunately, practically all the stage line records at McCuddy were lost when the house was destroyed by fire in 1924, and many familiar names were lost with the records. Such names as Cade or Kade, Phil Stanier, Frank Johnson, are mentioned in the one account book saved. Others well-known were Billy Armstrong, Curtis, Bob Hale, who took over the contract from Snodgrass; and Andy Kirkland, who was killed when his team went over the bank coming down Jolly Jack hill, to mention a few of those intrepid characters to whom residents of the present day owe so much.

The Life of a Teamster

In spite of the heavy loads, long hours and bad roads, that took their toll of man and beast, there was a certain romance to the lives of these people. The speed and endurance of the many teams on the road meant profit or loss to the freighters and stage drivers, and for the most part, these men kept their horses in the finest condition, sleek and well-groomed. They took a pride in their harnesses which were kept well-oiled and repaired, decorated with brightly colored celluloid rings and trimmings; a row of bells was attached to the collar of each horse and the merry jingle would give warning to other travellers of the approach of the heavy wagons.

William Snodgrass had brought two Concord stages in with him and one of these was on the McKinney run, and it possessed a horn hung on the side of the stage. The driver would pick it up and blow periodically, to let travellers know the stage was coming. It served as a warning as did the freighters' bells.

While the mines were running at McKinney all the freight, mail and passengers for the Boundary country went by way of McCuddy. Some nights the fourteen-room house was filled to overflowing and the owners would be forced to spend the night in their chairs; and the huge barns had more than a hundred horses in them. After the road was completed around Vaseux Lake the mail for Fairview came by way of Grace Lake, now known as Mud Lake, a small lake about a half-mile south of Gallagher Lake where the main stage road went by. The stage would be met at Wolf-town, where the freighters used to camp, and the mail and passengers for Fairview would be transferred; sometimes it would be only a saddle horse that met them. At high water the road around Grace Lake (?) would be well under water and sometimes there would be as much as four feet of water on the road around Vaseux Lake.

Close by the McCuddy stopping place was a large sawmill, owned by C. Tillman, that supplied lumber to the new camp and employed as many as 35 men besides many engaged in hauling the lumber, some of which was hauled as far away as Hedley. Tillman later moved to Fairview and then to Hedley.

Usually the gold bricks from the Cariboo Mine at Camp McKinney went out by way of McCuddy. J. Monaghan always used a light rig and team, and would drive up to McCuddy's, put his team away, and go in for supper, leaving his suitcase and the bricks, which would be in sacks, lying in the bottom of the rig in plain sight. After supper he and McCuddy would go out and bring in the suitcase and the sacks, which they would have to pack as though there was little weight in them. These sacks they would drop under a table somewhere in full view, and Monaghan would take his suitcase and go up to bed. In the morning he would gather up his sacks and be on his way and no one ever got wise to the fact that this was the month's clean-up going out. The only time the gold went out the Rock Creek way was the time that McAulay was robbed of the three bricks.

Early day "Contractors"

At one time there were some contractors who contracted to put up barns and warehouses from Penticton to Grand Forks. They were very fast workers; would take a stack of boards or timbers and saw them off with a cross-cut saw and didn't bother to put too many braces In. By the time they got to Grand Forks word came through from Penticton that the buildings there were starting to fall down. They had built a couple of barns for McCuddy, and a warehouse for the Bassetts at McCuddy, as they used to change their loads from wagons to sleighs there in the winter time. John McCuddy heard about the other buildings falling down and managed to get his barns braced in time to save them but the Bassett warehouse fell down, and they were out a lot of money on the deal. The contractors got across the line before anyone could catch up with them. One of the barns at McCuddy had four rows of stalls in it.

Much of the freight in those days were large barrels of beer. Often the freighters would knock a hoop up on a keg, bore a hole in the barrel and take what they wanted, plug the hole up again and knock the hoop back in place. There was also a bar at the McCuddy place. John McCuddy was a big strong man, and if any of the customers got too quarrelsome or abusive he would pick them up by the collar, knock their heads together and throw them out. There was a bunk house behind the big house which was often full too. One night when it was full, one of the men awoke in the night with the feeling something was wrong. Waking some of his companions, they proceeded to wake the rest of the men and found that one, known only as "Red" was dead. Dr. R. B. White was summoned from Fairview, he pronounced death from natural causes. A coffin was made of rough boards and "Red" was buried on the ranch. No trace was ever found of who he was.

Henry Main, who had a drug store in Penticton for several years, once walked from Penticton to Marcus, rolling a wheel ahead of him, by which he measured the number of miles between points. The mileage was as follows. -Penticton - Okanagan Falls 14 m; Camp McKinney 36 m; Rock Creek 17 m; Midway 12 m; Boundary Falls 5 m; Anaconda 2-half m; Greenwood 1-half m; Carson 14 m; Grand Forks 4 m; Marcus 42 m; Total 148 miles. The mileage was marked on the trees along the way.

The day book, stage account, from July 1899 to the end of July 1900, gives such items as - Meals 35c; bed 50c; 1 bottle beer 50c; horse feed, 1 horse 50c, team $1.00. stall 1 horse 25c, team 50c (this was because some outfits carried their own feed); shoeing 1 foot 60c. Apart from the stage account there appears such names as Al and Fred Swinburne, butchers from Fairview, Jas Hunter, Mackey, Barnie, J. T. Williams, blacksmith, J. A. Monteith, Joseph Cook, Palmer-1 flask 75c, 1 bottle $1.25, Fadden, Van Ash, Fred Gillanders, Walter Gillesple, Ed Coteau, Wm. Dalrymple and Venner, Police Constable.

Records show that the McCuddy post office, J. McCuddy, postmaster was in operation from November 1, 1900 to September 30, 1901.

Dealing with a Cattle Buyer

By 1905 Camp McKinney was almost a thing of the past and the freight wagons and stages were seeking newer and more prosperous trails. By this time the McCuddys had accumulated a large herd of sheep, and cattle, and one fall McCuddy rode to Greenwood to dispose of the surplus stock. Greenwood had a big population by then, and so did Phoenix. McCuddy made a deal with one cattle buyer to dispose of all the animals at a set price. He returned to the ranch and gathered the sheep and cattle and drove them by way of Kettle Valley. When they were as far as Midway, McCuddy rode in to Greenwood to tell his buyer the cattle were coming. Figuring he had McCuddy at a disadvantage, he told him he could only give him so much, a price much less than previously agreed upon. McCuddy told the buyer O.K. and returned to Midway where he rented the Naden ranch, and bought a big barn full of hay. Hiring a butcher he butchered so many sheep and cattle a week and peddled them to the stores and hotels in Greenwood and Phoenix. It wasn't long before the cattle buyer was around offering McCuddy more than his original offer, but McCuddy was making more money as it was and refused his offer, selling all the sheep and cattle at a good profit. Arthur McCuddy tells of walking to school at Boundary Falls that winter through two or three feet of snow, and when they returned to the Okanagan the ground was bare, scarcely any snow having fallen all winter.

Mrs. McCuddy was a very tiny woman and her husband, who was well over six feet, weighed about 256 lbs. They were a striking couple, both very active and hard workers. Yet Mrs. McCuddy kept an active mind, alert to the beauties of nature with which she was surrounded at McCuddy, and found time to study botany by means of a correspondence course so that she might better enjoy the flowers that covered the slopes of Mt. Baldy. One winter accompanied by her son, Arthur, she returned across the line to Normal for a refresher course, specializing in botany. When the McCuddys first settled on the ranch, and for several years after, black wolves, cougar, lynx and bears were plentiful. However, deer were scarce but there were numerous bands of wild horses roaming the hills. Blue grouse were also plentiful.

When John McCuddy was about 18, he was brakeman on a cotton train running between Chicago and New Orleans. Here he listened to the negroes singing, and learned their songs. Once there were several negroes working on the railroad near Midway and McCuddy was camped across the river from them. They sang as they worked, and when they stopped, much to their surprise, McCuddy took up the song. They continued singing back and forth across the river till some of them got curious to see who it was. They got a boat and rowed across the river.

In 1905 Mrs. McCuddy opened a store in Fairview, and in 1908 she took over the Post Office and Telephone service there. At that time there were three lines running into Fairview; one from Princeton, one from Penticton, and one from Oroville, Washington. There were three telephones in Fairview; one at the store, one at the hotel and one at the Government office.

Mr. McCuddy still carried on the activities at the ranch, but with the coming of the Southern Okanagan Irrigation Project and the centre of business activities moving to the new town of Oliver, the store at Fairview was closed and the Post Office and Telephone taken over at Oliver, and in 1921 Mrs. McCuddy moved back to the ranch.

Their son, Arthur McCuddv, took up land in Oliver and here Mrs. McCuddy made her home after the death of Mr. McCuddy in 1937. Mrs. McCuddy passed away in 1941.