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Vernon: history of European settlement and the city today

About Vernon

Vernon is a city in the Okanagan region of southern British Columbia, Canada. It is 270 miles away northeast of Vancouver. The town of Vernon was named after Forbes George Vernon, a former member of the British Columbia Parliament who helped found the Coldstream Ranch in nearby Coldstream, and was incorporated on December 30, 1892. The population of the city of Vernon is 40,000 people (according to the 2013 census). With this population, Vernon is the largest city in the North Okanagan Regional District.

Before Vernon

Even before the arrival of Europeans in Canada, long before fur traders and explorers, the land on which Vernon will appear in the future was occupied by the indigenous Okanagan people, who called this area Nintle Mus Chin, which means "the place where the stream narrows". This name comes from the fact that the banks of the stream flowing through the community almost converge at one point, and it was possible to jump over it.

One of the most famous indigenous inhabitants of this area was Chief Kalamalka, who was born around 1800. Chief Kalamalka was a hunter who was highly respected in the area, and once in a duel, he brought down a grizzly bear. One of the first hotels in Vernon was named after him, as well as a lake nearby.

European settlement and city establishment

Europeans began arriving in the area in 1811, when David Stewart, who worked for the Pacific Fur Company, arrived here. He became the first white man to see the Okanagan Valley. Thanks to the abundance of furs in the area and the beautiful landscape, it didn't take long for the area to become important. In 1860, missionaries built a priest's house along the creek, which was used as temporary housing for the priest during his trips to the Okanagan mission.

Vernon's story begins in 1863 when gold was discovered nearby, which caused a gold rush that brought prospectors and miners here. Along with the miners came people who wanted to make money from them, and those who came after them.

Vernon as a town originates from William Campbell, who bought a place on the site of the village and opened a store. He did not finish the construction, but in 1864 John Imlay arrived. He was a bricklayer working on Parliament House, and he bought Campbell's land and opened a store, probably the first store in the Vernon area. In 1885, E. J. Tronson and Charles Brewer arrived, who laid out a suitable settlement here and named it Centreville.

Centreville soon had a hotel, a store, a school, and a post office. The post office was located in Girouard's hut. Girouard also donated land for the first cemetery for Vernon, and it was there in 1895 that he was buried.

The name Centreville did not catch on, and in 1887 the city was named Vernon in honor of Forbes George Vernon, who was a member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia and owned a large amount of land near the present Vernon.

Although the gold rush helped start Vernon's development, it was still slow going. Everything changed in 1891 when the Canadian Pacific Railway came to the city. In 1892 Vernon became a city, and in 1903 a new city hall was built.

In 20th century

More and more people moved to the area, and after the City Hall was built. It also housed a fire station and a reading room. In 1904, Vernon became the largest city in the valley and the first city to have a bank.

Fruit growing soon replaced cattle breeding as the number one industry in the area. Water was supplied to the area from Okanagan Lake through the Gray Canal, a 19 miles irrigation system. By 1908, land prices had risen from $1 per acre to $150 per acre. Vernon became the center of trade in the Okanagan for both ranchers and gardeners.

The Vernon military camp was built in 1913, just at a time when the area was gripped by an economic depression that lasted until the mid-1930s. In the 1950s, a real estate boom began in the area, and by the 1960s, outdated public buildings were demolished and replaced.

Most communities were lucky enough to receive one visit from Queen Elizabeth II, but Vernon is one of those that received not only one visit but also a second.

The first visit took place on May 6, 1971, when the Queen and Prince Philip toured British Columbia in honor of the 100th anniversary of the province's entry into Confederation. This first trip was short. The Queen arrived at the community at lunchtime, spent 30 minutes in Vernon, then went to the next stop in Kelowna. Apart from the orchestra being late after her arrival, everything went smoothly. During the short stop, she also chatted with the cadets who gathered to greet her. Hundreds of people came for a short visit.

Vernon Today

Vernon, distinguished by a variety of agricultural crops, today thrives as the modern center of the Northern Okanagan. The abundance of lakes, rivers, and mountains makes Vernon a place that tourists like to visit.