2022 11 29 | Host: Colin Heggie | Ken Mather - About Cornelius O'Keefe
Nov 29, 2022
Colin Heggie hosted former O’Keefe Ranch Curator, historian, storyteller & Cowboy poet Ken Mather, who recently completed his eighth book – this one about Cornelius O’Keefe (1838 – 1919). The seventh child of an Irish farmer & his French-Canadian wife, Cornelius grew up in the Nepean area (south side of Ottawa), becoming proficient with an axe, & working on the construction of the Rideau Canal. In 1862, at age 24, he made his way to the Cariboo, where he found work building the Cariboo Road. By 1866, his entrepreneurial spirit & hard work ethic had him partnering with other BC pioneers Thomas Wood (Wood Lake) & Thomas Greenhow, to drive a large herd of cattle through Oregon & Washington to the head of Okanagan Lake, where they each pre-empted 160 acres of good ranch land. O’Keefe & Greenhow built a general store & a grist mill. O’Keefe was appointed Postmaster, serving 40 years. Over a couple of decades, O’Keefe bought land at about $1/acre, assembling holdings throughout the Vernon area of about 12,000 acres. By about 1900, he was the wealthiest man in the Okanagan, with a variety of businesses, & almost 70 “town lots” in Vernon. Through all this, he had two children with his Head of the Lake band wife Rosie; nine children with his Nepean wife Mary Ann; and six more children with Elizabeth, the last being born when Cornelius was 76! His last few years were spent in his beautiful home, battling dementia. He died in 1919. His son Tierney lived 1911 – 2000, so two generations covered 162 years! Ken finished his presentation by reciting a cowboy poem.