The Okanagan Valley, well-known for its scenic views, orchards and lifestyle, did not start out this way. When Lord and Lady Aberdeen arrived in 1891, the valley was mainly used to graze cattle. The valley was on the cusp of changing into the fruit growing holiday place that it is today. With the purchase, sight unseen, of their first property, Guisachan Farm, the Aberdeens planted one of the early commercial orchards in the valley. After a wonderful holiday at Guisachan, they immediately bought the larger Coldstream Ranch to continue their commercial venture into fruit growing.
Part of their plan was to subdivide a large section of the ranch into smaller fruit farms. The Aberdeens wanted to attract, in Lady Aberdeen’s words, “a very good class” of people to the Okanagan. This optimistic couple invested significant time and money into their dream of the valley as a major fruit growing centre in Canada. Their impact is significant and lasting and has helped to develop the Okanagan into the major agricultural area it is today. The settlers who came to the Okanagan, heard about the opportunities in the valley and took the chance largely because Lord and Lady Aberdeen led the way.
“Advance with Courage” tells the less known story of this couple’s time in Canada. It is a rare visual and written account of their time in the Okanagan Valley through Lady Aberdeen’s Kodak photos, her journals and archival materials. This is their story.
This story is told through the eyes of a British aristocrat settler. The land in the Okanagan Valley belonged to the Syilx people. Often little regard was held for First Nations people and their territory. Instead the focus was on bringing new settlers to the valley to develop and farm the land for their own personal benefit. The Aberdeens’ perspective was the similar viewpoint of European colonization across the globe at this time in history.
Unless otherwise stated, the italicized quotes in this exhibition are by Lady Aberdeen.Start reading the story
Advance with Courage: Lord and Lady Aberdeen in the Okanagan Valley
Credits: Central Okanagan Heritage Society, Kelowna, B.C.