Lake Country - Life. The Okanagan Way.

THE HEART OF THE OKANAGAN
British Columbia, Canada
 

Oyama

Oyama was named after Field Marshall Iwao Oyama who fought in the Japanese Russian War from 1900 to 1905. Oyama was also the name given to the first post office in the area which was established between 1906 and 1908.

As early as 1867, (Canada’s Confederation), Tom Wood and Cornelius O’Keefe drove cattle from Washington, USA to the north end of Okanagan Lake. In 1893 the first white settlers began arriving with ranching and the planting of orchards commencing in the early 1900s. Oyama Lake, located in the mountains to the east, provided irrigation to the fruit growers.

The Wood Lake Fruit Lands Company was formed in 1907 and fruit growing became the predominating industry. After World War 1 another influx of settlers arrived. Many descendents of these first settlers reside in Oyama today. Local stores began opening in 1908 through 1910 decreasing the need residents to travel to Vernon.

As the population grew, the desire and need for public institutions became evident. In 1920 and 1936 respectively, the Anglican and Catholic churches were built and the first school was built in 1911. A new two room elementary school opened in 1917 for grades one through eight and the high school students had to travel to Vernon.

In 1921 an extra room was built accommodating the high school students and became the only high school between Vernon and Rutland. This high school continued until closing in 1945. Between 1946 and 1959 grade seven through twelve students were transferred south to the community of Rutland. A new high school for the area, George Elliot Secondary School, did not open until October, 1959.

A library was established in 1915 and in 1924 an exchange book program was implemented with neighboring districts. A Rural Health Unit was organized in 1939 that provided limited medical treatment to the residents. Electricity arrived in 1935; electric lighting was now in many of the homes, institutions and to the few operating businesses.

By 1906, fruit growing and packing was the major industry in Oyama. The Vernon Fruit Union was packing three thousand boxes per day and the season’s packing was two hundred and ten thousand boxes of apples and ten to twenty thousand boxes of soft fruits. Due to the success of fruit growing, other industries such as dairying, the raising of cattle and poultry diminished greatly.

With the construction of the Canadian National Railway line through Oyama, coupled with significant road improvements, the transporting of goods over land became a more cost effective means of transportation than that of the steamboat. By the late 1940’s, road improvements and increasing ownership of vehicles paved the way for tourist opportunities.

The Kalamalka Agricultural Association was established in February 1914 under the leadership of Price Ellison. In August 1937 a general meeting changed the name of the Association to the Oyama Community Club. The Club is still actively involved in the community today.

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