Perhaps the best-known family of BC’s francophone ranchers is the Guichon family. They married Europeans and chose to retain their French language (at least into the grandchildren’s generation).
Brothers Charles, Pierre, Laurent, and Joseph left Chambéry in Savoie, France, to try their luck like so many others in the gold fields of California. Moderately successful, they followed the masses northward to the Cariboo gold country in 1859.
The three older brothers started their own pack train of horses to supply miners. Joseph, the youngest, worked at Antoine Minaberriets’ Basque ranch, then joined the largest pack train in the province, that of fellow Frenchman Jean Caux, better known as “Cataline.” It was while seeking winter pasture for their horses that the brothers came upon the grasslands of the Nicola Valley and realized their ranching potential.
Charles returned home in 1865 to marry and remained in France. The other brothers eventually set up a large farm at Mamette (Mamit) Lake north of Merritt, where a small Francophone community had established itself around the ranch of Antoine Rey, also from Savoie. Laurent and Joseph met Rey’s daughters, Joséphine and Peronne, and soon Joseph married Joséphine, while Laurent married Peronne. Sadly, Pierre passed away around 1880.
Laurent and Joseph started the Guichon ranch at Chapperon Lake east of Merritt. There, the brothers introduced an innovative hothouse system that provided quantities of produce well beyond the regular season.
In 1882, the brothers each went their own way, contributing to the fabric of BC history…