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W.J. SNODGRASS Started Community

Taken from the Okanagan Falls 2000 Visitor’s Guide

In the summer of 1893, an Oregon man named W.J. Snodgrass crossed the border at Osoyoos and, declaring himself to be “a settler”, gave to a piece of British Columbia the name “Okanagan Falls”.

He was a member of a small syn­dicate which had purchased this attractive spot and he conjectured that four railroads would intersect here.

Snodgrass planned a townsite to accommodate the traffic and the crowds.

He allocated space for railway repair yards, a college, a hospital, and included a shopping centre, a gracious residential core.

He thought he could bring stern-wheelers from the north of Okanagan Lake direct to the wharf he constructed.

The wharf was in the vicinity of the former Crystal Lake Motor Inn, where construction has started on luxury condominiums.

Snodgrass dreamed of Okanagan Falls becoming the “Queen City” of this lovely Okanagan Valley.

His roads were named after trees and he probably intended that they should become leafy walks.

A bridge was built across the Okanagan River, cantilevered over a small island conveniently sited in the tumbling rapids which the Salish people called Kwakneta, “the little falls”.

(Every year, they visited this spot, for fishing feasts, summer councils, tribal discussions).

Snodgrass spoke of tapping the river’s hydro-generating power at this point, to provide his townspeo­ple with the new-fangled electricity which was mesmerizing North America.

He expected that other entrepre­neurs, just as enthusiastic as he, would build hotels, establish busi­nesses, help make his creation buoy­ant and prosperous.

Nevertheless, when railway plan­ners failed to show interest in his townsite, the Oregon man was forced to build almost every facility the little place needed.

He became hotelier, proprietor of a general store, sawmill operator, freighter, and his resources were stretched tight.

In 1908, beaten by competition coming from upstart settlements like Penticton, Summerland and nearby Kaleden, he recognized that his dream for Okanagan Falls was unlikely to materialize.

Snodgrass surrendered, returning to Portland, Oregon, where he died.

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