Pride in the present comes from knowledge of the past

Residents of Olalla are discovering a new pride in their community, spearheaded by a local group known as the “Friends of Olalla."

 

Residents of Olalla are discovering a new found pride in their community, spearheaded by a local group of concerned citizens known as the “Friends of Olalla.”

The group is dedicated to improving the public’s perception of the community by subtle improvements to tidiness of the community, and recently by the construction and placement of identifying signs at either entrance to the hamlet.

In a further effort to improve public perception of the community and provide residents with a link to Olalla’s colourful past, the Review will be running a series of articles in the coming weeks that describe Olalla’s proud links to the past, as well as its significance to the development of the Lower Similkameen.

Part 1

 

Highway 3A has been described as having a “gentle ascent” up the Keremeos valley and over the height of land at Yellow Lake. Indeed, it does slope mildly, but steadily upward as the highway leaves the outskirts of Keremeos, passing Bears Fruit Stand and the location of what was formerly known as “Keremeos Centre.”

Just off the bypass road to the west, in pioneer times Harry Tweddle built a two story hotel known as the Central, along with a livery barn. There was a jail here as well, which subsequently moved to the present location of Keremeos in 1917.

 

A kilometre or so further north, near the present day Keremeos Cemetery, was the site of Upper Keremeos, where Emanuel Barcelo’s hotel and Sam McCurdy’s butcher shop once stood.

In 2003, a travel guide described Olalla, located seven kilometres from the junction of Highway 3, as “a thorpe of converted school buses now immobilized to shady yards occupied by single and double wide manufactured homes, swing sets and pet collies.”

The nature of Olalla continues to slowly change over the years, as newer, bigger homes gradually replace the manufactured homes of  a decade ago.

However, in 1914,   provincial mining maps of the day indicated big days ahead for the community, as a patchwork of claims dotted the mountains on both sides of the valley.

It was the promise of gold, silver and copper that spurred interest in the area, and established the community.

The copper rich Dolphin group of claims were the most developed properties in the Olalla area. An aerial tram ran buckets of ore to the road on the valley floor, where it was waggoned to the railhead at Keremeos. The ore was stored in 40 ton ore bunkers in Keremeos before ultimately being shipped to Northport, Washington, for smelting.

The mine never met expectations for output, however, and the ore bins were seldom full. Promising orebearing veins in the Olalla mountainsides pinched out, frustrating and disappointing mining interests who had difficulty soliciting investment capital.

Hedley Monarch Mines eventually consolidated 72 properties in the region in the 1940’s, but they too failed to make money. Ore bins from their operations were located and visible from the highway just south of Olalla until last July, when  a nearby adit (mine tunnel) was filled in and the structure removed for safety reasons. The ore bin had been a part of the Olalla landscape for more than five decades, and with its removal, the last visible reminder of Olalla’s mining past disppeared forever.