The O’Keefe Ranch

O'Keefe Ranch

Located just outside Vernon, the O’Keefe Historic Ranch has graced this land for a very long time – before Canada was even formed as a country.

The future of the ranch is in question. For years now, despite its historical significance, tourism at the O’Keefe Ranch has failed to cover operating and maintenance costs. The city of Vernon has been giving it significant yearly assistance.

Recently though, that assistance plan has been dramatically cut, leaving the historic site questioning what the future may hold.

Outside The O'Keefe Home

On our visit, Vernon was far too hot for my liking. You won’t find many tropical Runaway tours for this very reason (Thailand doesn’t count. I was living and working there – it wasn’t a holiday – I wasn’t running!).

I was unable to check out the ranch in its entirety for this reason. I was literally passing out while perusing the boardwalk shops!

Downtown O'Keefe Ranch Mini Train Set

Cornelius O’Keefe, an Irishman from Ontario, was very driven. He was the first cattle farmer in the North Okanagan to open a general store on his property. When built, his ranch home was considered to be the most expensive and elaborate in the interior of BC.

It was also Cornelius O’Keefe who rallied locals in 1871 to demand postal service from the newly formed Canadian government.

In 1872, his wish was granted, and Cornelius would spend the next forty years functioning as area postmaster.

Once the postal outlet was established, BC Express Stage Lines ran a coach from Cache Creek to the ranch, once weekly.

St. Anne’s, a Roman Catholic church on site, was built in 1889 – and is still a popular venue for weddings.

The Church O'Keefe Ranch

The interior of the O’Keefe home has been left (as much as is possible) in it’s original state. The family made a few changes in their later years there, which have been mostly retro-graded to resemble the homes interior state circa the late 1800’s.

O'Keefe Kitchen

The home smelled old. I have been to many historic homes, but this was the first one that contained the overwhelming smell of age.

In The O'Keefe Home

It was almost too much (really, it was the heat – I was already melting by this point).

I rushed through a bit faster than I would have liked.

Chandelier O'Keefe Ranch

What I appreciated about the ranch home, in comparison to some other historic sites, was that it was not overtly dressed up. In fact it still looks like a farm house.

 

Inside The O'Keefe Home

Sure, there is a formal sitting and dining room, but the rest of the home looks like a hardworking, conservatively minded farming family once resided here.

O'Keefe Home

Worn, used and loved – for many decades. You could picture the multitude of O’Keefe children and grandchildren running wildly through the halls (9 with the first wife, and 6 with the second!).

O'Keefe Livingroom

There was even evidence of broken rails on the staircases – reportedly from the daily slides.

There were more than a few interesting artifacts in the home. I had to laugh a bit at the ‘trail medicine’ (whiskey) in its fancy leather case.

Medicine

And the ‘gentleman’s tea cups’. Back in the day of the absurd moustache, arsenic was used in the waxy material used to hold the stache at high point. When that arsenic hit the warm tea, it melted and joined the liquid being consumed.

Many men died this way! And so came the invention of the fancy ‘stache cup’.

Moustache Tea Cups

But one of my favourite artifacts had to be the music player.

A huge perforated metal disk was forced awkwardly into a bendy angle inside the wooden contraption, then held down by a metal arm. Once turned on, it spun like a record, playing metallic notes like a tiny music box.

That’s exactly what it sounded like.

I have seen many old music bits, many gramophones, but I have never seen anything in my travels like this giant music box. And it had volume!

Music Player

If you can, show a little support to the struggling Historic O’Keefe Ranch. It would be a real shame to see it fall into further disrepair. Even more a shame to imagine it being torn down and redeveloped.

Dave's Goat Walk

And if you are out in the area anyway, why not stop in at ‘Dave’s Goat Walk’? Did you know that goats are one of the oldest domesticated animals?

Visiting Dave's Goat Walk

You will find lots of them to interact with (and a bridge with a pulley system for clever self feeding), a pile of impressive historic remnants, a few ridiculous oversized things (gorilla, swan, dinosaur), scads of old school candy (awesome!) and random cute stuff in the (easy to miss – inside, side entrance, left) gift shop.

At The Goat Walk

The log barn that houses all this goodness was built in 1912. Inside (for a price), you can pick up some fantastic Mennonite goods.

The pies were so enormous and impressive – they didn’t even look real!

Additional photos in the slideshow.

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You can follow this trip by heading to the ‘Mountain Retreat‘ section, or you can enjoy many more photos of British Columbia by heading to the Habitual Runaway on Facebook.

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4 responses to “The O’Keefe Ranch

    • Ha ha! Igloos too? 😛 Well, the Okanagan Valley is actually a desert biome. Very little rain & HELL HOT (Arizona style). can hardly handle it there. And here in the Vancouver area it almost never snows. If it does, it will only be for a day or so & the snow usually doesn’t stay. We have ‘warm’ winters. The rest of Canada is covered in snow from November to March (at least), but remarkably we have very hot summers here – Toronto, Montreal, the Prairies – terribly hot in the summer! Unbearable, I say! 😀

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