The O'Keefe Ranch was established on June 15, 1867 and represents the very beginnings of European settlement in the Okanagan Valley. In those days, the Cariboo Gold Rush was at its peak and the miners’ demand for food inspired enterprising young men to buy beef cattle far to the south in Oregon and drive them north to the goldfields. Cornelius O’Keefe and his partners, Thomas Greenhow and Thomas Wood, were driving cattle north when they arrived at the head of Okanagan Lake in June of 1867. A sea of bunch grass covered the hills and valleys all around, well watered by creeks and small lakes. The men took up 160 acres each, the maximum allowed by the Colonial government, and began their own ranches.
From this beginning, the O’Keefe Ranch grew as O’Keefe acquired unoccupied crown land for as cheap as a dollar an acre. The late 1800s were the days of the open range era in cattle ranching, where thousands of head of cattle roamed the great unfenced ranges of the Okanagan, Thompson and Cariboo regions. The myth of the “cowboy” grew up around the young men who worked with the cattle, even though the mystique of the untamed and romantic cowboy life was sometimes belied by the rough, low-paying life that they actually led.
Today, the O’Keefe Ranch is a historic located on 50 acres and consists of ten original pre-1900 buildings located on their original sites, five reconstructed or post-1900 buildings, one pre-1900 building (Schubert House) relocated to the O’Keefe Ranch, one 1912 building (Balmoral Schoolhouse) relocated to the site and a core building housing ranch offices, a restaurant and gift shop.
The normal operating season for the O’Keefe Ranch is from May – September. Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ranch has elected to remain closed until further notice. Staff are constantly monitoring the situation and will make plans to open on a partial basis when BC Health Officials state that it is safe to do so. In the meantime, we are continuing to share stories of the O’Keefe Family and the people who had an impact on the development of the Okanagan on our website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Each week we share an interesting fact about an object in our collection called #museummonday and on Friday we share a story about one of the animals on the Ranch in #farmanimalfriday. We have also started a video series called “Life and Times” and these can also be viewed on our Facebook page.
Our website is also full of interesting historical facts. We have uploaded a number of digital exhibitions: