A Piece of History Uncovered

Historic O'Keefe Ranch

A piece of history was found while working on a piece of history.

St. Anne’s Church at Historic O’Keefe Ranch is undergoing some renovations and, as crews were excavating under the church to rebuild the foundation, a 126-year-old letter was found.

The find was amazing, said ranch manger Glen Taylor.

“It’s written by the priest who actually designed St. Anne’s Church. He also did the painting in the building. When the letter was written, the church was being constructed. He came out to look at the work being done and handed Mr. O’Keefe the letter,” said Taylor.

Speculation is the letter was dropped and spent more than a century beneath the floor of the church.

The missive was written on April 3, 1889 by Alphonse Carion – an Oblate priest – and it requested Cornelius O’Keefe invite all of the area Catholics to a mass for Palm Sunday.

Because the church was not yet open, mass would have been held in main house. The church did not officially open until December, 1889.

Taylor said it was fascinating to connect the letter to the man who designed the church, which has become a signature building at the ranch located 10 minutes from Vernon on Highway 97.

“The letter has been turned over to our curator,” said Taylor. “This adds to the story of the place. Here is some actual correspondence while the church is being built. It adds a little more interest for everyone to pick up on.”

Repairing the foundation is the first of three phases of restoration being done to the North Okanagan’s first Catholic church.

“The building is basically sitting on the ground in some areas and is basically rotting away,” said Taylor.

Phase two will be to replace the siding and phase three will include work on the steeple.

Once work is complete, people will notice a big difference as the church is being restored to is original form. Originally the church was white and will be again.

The ranch has raised $100,000 of the $150,000 needed for the renos and Taylor said they will be holding more fundraisers and applying for grants to get the remainder needed.

Last year, St. Anne’s hosted 30 weddings.

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