AS REPORTED IN THE OSOYOOS TIMES “PIONEER EDITION”
1973 THURSDAY NOVEMBER 15
The first denomination to establish a church in Osoyoos was the Presbyterian, when in the summer of 1917, a Mr. Brothwick, a lay preacher, covered part of the Kettle Valley field together with Osoyoos and Okanagan Falls. Services were held at various points twice monthly, and Mr. Brothwick covered the miles of sandy mountain trails on his bicycle.
Following Mr. Brothwick another layman, Mr. Warren, came to service the area from Okanagan Falls as far South as Osoyoos. Mr. Warren had a horse and buggy with which he had a great deal of difficulty and failed often to reach his appointments in time, so he bought a Ford car on low payments and then he got around very well. While the South Okanagan irrigation canal was being
constructed, Mr. Warren held services in the construction camps.
In Osoyoos, services were held at the Fraser ranch home until a school room was fitted up in the old jail. This squared log building is now part of the Osoyoos Museum and stood on high ground somewhere near the location of our present school. This building had been used in turn as a trading post, residence, court house and jail, and then as a church Sunday school. The present council room of the Osoyoos Municipal Office incorporates the original one room school built in 1932, and this room was used for church and Sunday school services. The desks proved rather small, and as numbers increased the newly constructed Community Hall became the home of church activities.
In 1921 the Presbyterian church, visualizing the rapid development of the district following the advent of irrigation water about due from the South Okanagan Lands Project, built both a church and a manse in Oliver. In 1926 the irrigation canal reached the Osoyoos benches and small homes dotted the district as many settlers moved into the Osoyoos area.
Reverend Harry Feir, an ordained minister from Manitoba, became the resident minister of the Okanagan Falls, Oliver, Osoyoos area.
Pioneers of Osoyoos who served to maintain and further the work of our church were: Mr. & Mrs. J.K. Anderson, Mr.& Mrs. George Fraser and family, Mr. & Mrs. Hanbury, Mr. & Mrs. Henry Hulton, Mr. Bert Billings Mr. & Mrs. D. Burpee, Mr. & Mrs. E.R. Dawson, Mr. & Mrs. Tom Hulton, Mr. & Mrs. C.L. Carless, Mr. & Mrs. Harry Price, Mr. & Mrs. George Simpson, Mr. & Mrs. J. Calderbank and family, and later William Laidlaw, Mrs. R. Lewis (later Mrs. J. Johnson), Mrs. B. Lindsay, Mr. & Mrs. M. Holmes, Mr. & Mrs. P. Bates, and Mr. & Mrs. Millen.
In 1925 the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Congregational churches united to form the United Church of Canada and took over the mission work in this field. Mr. Feir continued as pastor for six years until 1931.
“The honor of being the first pioneer group in the community goes to the ladies of the United Church, who in February, 1931, formed the Womens Association with Mrs. E.R. Dawson as it’s President. This association was far more than a church group. Almost all the the handful of Osoyoos women joined and the organization looked after all community work such as welfare,
sending Christmas hampers, assisting with school affairs, such as the annual Christmas tree party with a gift for every child. They raised money for these affairs through bazaars, suppers, etc,” I quote the above from :”The Story of Osoyoos” by the late George Fraser. These pioneer women of our church deserve much credit for labouring under difficult circumstances. In recent conversation with Mrs. Henry Hulton, she told of catering to a rodeo held on the sandy bench in East Osoyoos. They operated from a large tent, serving coffee and sandwiches. As events progressed, all food had an ample covering of sand, as did the ladies themselves.
Rev. Feir was succeeded by Rev. H. Dewer who had come from a mission on the rugged west coast. Five years later, Mr. Dewer was succeeded by Rev. R.E. Gribb in 1936; he had come from Kimberley. The ladies Auxiliary purchased a lot for a church site from the village in 1938, and early 1939 the erection of the church was under way. By August the task was completed for the most part by volunteer labour. This is a white stucco building with Gothic windows. The church was dedicated by Dr. W.E. McPherson of Kelowna on September 24th, 1939.
After five years on this charge, Mr. Gribb was succeeded by Rev. S.V.H. Redman of Ladner who served from 1942 to 1950. Later his son, Donald taught at Osoyoos school and at that time was organist and choir leader of a youth choir in our church. The Rev. Sidney Pike of Peachland was our next minister and served for ten years until 1960. As the district grew, so did our Sunday School attendance, and it was seen that greater accommodation was needed. Consequently, in 1950 a concrete block structure 26 by 40 feet was added to the original church and was dedicated in June 1950 by Rev. Redman.
Yet another addition was necessary, when in 1958 the Sunday School attendance had grown to 145 children, and more roomy quarters were imperative. On October 26th, 1959 it was dedicated by the Rev. R. McLaren, then principal of the Naramata Centre.
In 1960 Rev. Pike was succeeded by a minister from Lillooet, Rev. George Searcy who was with us for five years. The number of families under his ministerial oversight had grown greatly, and Osoyoos now decided to call a minister of it’s own. The Rev. Alan Billington from Burns Lake came and stayed for one year. The congregation decided to call a student minister, Mr. David Sutherland. As Mr. Sutherland was visiting relatives in his native Scotland, Dr, Whilkie came each weekend from Vancouver for three months to visit and preach the Sunday sermon until Mr. Sutherland returned in November. Mr. Sutherland was with us until July 1967. The Rev. Kermit Eutin, his wife Eleanor, and three daughters came from Burnaby in July. Recently, they had served a charge in Neville, Saskatchewan.
In the spring of 1967, the congregation purchased a lot on 89th Avenue, and construction of a manse was soon underway. However, completion was delayed, and when the Eutin family arrived to take up residence, they had to set up temporary housekeeping in the church basement.
Due to increasing costs, by 1971 the congregation found itself unable to afford the support of it’s own minister, and again we became part of the Oliver, Okanagan Falls charge with the Rev. John Smith as pastor.
We are presently under the guidance of Rev. Robert Baird, who with his wife and three young children came from Port Alberni.
This gives a brief summary of the United Church in Osoyoos. Imagination must weave for most of us the stories of laughter and tears, courage, and faith that would comprise it’s backbone. The inspiration of those who are deeply woven into this story offers hope and perseverance to the church in today’s changing times.