Coldstream: The Ranch Where It All Began

by Donna Wuest

“Coldstream Ranch is right in the middle of suburbia. Most ranches, if the cattle did get out, they’re on someone else’s range. If the Coldstream cattle get out, they’re on somebody’s lawn . . . People are understandably annoyed that there are cows tromping in their rose beds. Then we come along and have to gallop through the beds. We’ve tripped over lawn furniture trying to round up cows.” —Sandy Boyd, cowboy

Coldstream Ranch, on the outskirts of the Okanagan city of Vernon, wasn’t always crowded in the ’burbs. One of the oldest continually operating ranches in Canada, it was on the far edge of the far West when Charles Houghton founded it to provision the Cariboo Gold Rush in 1863. It’s been operating so long Vernon is actually named after its second owners, the Vernon brothers. For decades it was owned by a succession of British bluebloods, including the quixotic Lord Aberdeen, who resigned his appointment as Governor General after he and his profligate brother-in-law Coutts squandered a fortune on grandiose schemes at Coldstream. Nevertheless, they proved drybelt soil could be turned into fine farmland with the aid of irrigation and pioneered the region’s world-renowned orchard industry.

Author Donna Wuest vividly evokes the lives of the apple pickers, packers and pruners, piggery hands, potato processors and cowhands who worked on the Ranch. It is a story rich in characters like the gruff old manager “Fluffy” Wollaston, who is buried on the Ranch, and Nez Perce Indians, who arrived to pick hops replete with teepees, papooses and colourful headdresses. Coldstream is an affectionately written, well-researched chronicle of a historic institution. The Coldstream story is the story of the orchard and cattle industries in BC, and in many ways the story of the BC Interior.

Donna (Yoshitake) Wuest was born and raised on the Coldstream Ranch during the years when much of the land was orchard. During one of her return visits to the Ranch as an adult, she was inspired to write a history of the place. She works as a freelance journalist and writer and lives in Vancouver, BC.

ISBN 1-55017-343-X
8½ x 11, 160 pages, paper
100 b&w photos
History • Ranching • Orchards