Skip to main content

A Catholic missionary brings in cattle

Head and shoulders photo of priest with hand in cassock

Father Charles Pandosy

As the gold-crazed human wave spread across the Interior, missionaries were never far behind.

The first Catholic missionary to venture into the Interior was Oblate priest Charles Pandosy, from Marseille, France, who reached the Oregon Territory in 1847. In 1858, he arrived at Esquimalt, the headquarters of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in the Colony of Vancouver Island. Today it is part of Greater Victoria.

With French Canadians Cyprien and Théodore Laurence and their wives, Pandosy established the Okanagan Mission, the first permanent mission in the Interior. The first European family to settle here on the east side of Okanagan Lake was from France:  Éli Lequime, his wife Marie-Louise (née Atabagoethe), and their young sons.

Statue of priest in front of log cabin

Sculpture of Charles Pandosy by Crystal Przybille, with Pandosy Mission buildings in background, Kelowna


To ensure the mission’s sustenance, Pandosy brought grape vines, fruit trees, and beef cattle, thereby unknowingly launching the three great industries that would flourish in the region. The Okanagan Mission evolved into the City of Kelowna, and downtown streets today echo the names of these first Francophone settlers.