Between the years 1862 and 1872 the Hudson Bay Company owned ranch land and a trading post in the area. The lower part of our property, where the old apple barn is, belonged to the Hudson Bay Company at one time.
In 1906, the Keremeos Land Company started buying land in the area. The company was run by the Armstrongs and the Morrisons.
They developed the first irrigation system in what is now the townsite of Keremeos, bringing water from the Ashnola River by a system of flumes and ditches. The water for the bench land later came from Keremeos Creek.
Before irrigation, the bench was a wild rangeland of cactus and sagebrush. Irrigation brought the possibility of the orchards which are still thriving here today.
The Morrisons and the Armstrongs built large homes on the bench land (now Middle Bench Road). The Armstrong house burned down in the 1990’s but the Morrison house is still in prime condition and belongs to our neighbours.
Beside their house, the Morrisons built a water tower which is one of a kind in Canada. It provided water for the house and pressure for the plumbing - probably the first flush toilet in the area! Although the water tank (probably a huge wooden barrel) is no longer in place, the tower is still standing and has a fabulous view of the valley!
The Morrisons built several other buildings on their property including the honey extraction house (now our vacation guest cottage), the workshop building, our house (which was probably built as a home for the farm foreman), another smaller house and a greenhouse. A large barn was built later. Its thick walls allowed the storage of fruit in the days before refrigeration.
When we bought the property in 2001 we were happy to find that although the exteriors of the buildings were lacking paint, the structures themselves were still strong. Armstrong and Morrison were also in the cement business in Vancouver and they knew how to make good foundations and cement floors and they built the wooden structures to last.
In the next few years, we plan to restore the five buildings that are on our property. In 2003 we worked on the honey house, including an addition and a bathroom. It is now a comfortable guest accommodation for visitors who would like a holiday experience on an organic farm in this beautiful, rural area. Alain restored the glass windows in the tower and put new roofs on the old apple barn and shed. In 2008 we repaired and painted the cedar shingle siding on the tower. We have plans to rebuild the interior staircase and floors to allow access to top floor of the tower.
The Similkameen offers many historic sites including the Grist Mill and Gardens, the Red Bridge, the Keremeos Museum and just half an hour to the West, the historic gold mining town of Hedley.