South Okanagan History: For a short period of time in 1934, Orofino Mountain was an economic force in the South Okanagan - InfoNews

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South Okanagan History: For a short period of time in 1934, Orofino Mountain was an economic force in the South Okanagan

The bunkhouse and mill at the Grandoro Mine above Twin Lakes, 40 km southwest of Penticton. The mine, located on Orofino Mountain, was the scene of some major economic and entertainment activity in 1934.
Image Credit: PMA2822, Penticton Museum and Archives
October 01, 2018 - 5:00 PM

OLIVER - More than 80 years ago, new ore discoveries on a mountain southwest of Penticton gave the South Okanagan an economic shot in the arm, and for the briefest period of time made Orofino Mountain the centre of the South Okanagan universe.

This is another instalment in our ongoing look at the stories of South Okanagan history.

It was the height of the Great Depression, in 1934, and the local newspaper was abuzz with excitement about a quartz vein that had been discovered on Orofino Mountain. The vein had given rise to at least two new mines in the area - the Grandoro and Twin Lakes Mines, at a time when the local economy desperately needed a boost.

The Twin Lakes Mine was the talk of the region in early 1934. Newspaper accounts of the day noted the recent pouring of its first gold brick and the fact the new workings had a 50 man crew and a payroll of $5,000 monthly.

“New and steady income at Penticton’s back door,” noted a sub heading in one of the many articles running in the paper about the new mines.

Grandoro mine was being developed a short distance away, preparing to exploit an extension of the Twin Lakes vein.

The excitement surrounding the developments on Orofino Mountain translated into a staking rush and subsequent revival of interest in properties in the Fairview mining camp, a short distance south of Orofino Mountain, and just east of Oliver.

The new workings even attracted the attention of New York’s Guggenheim family, who apparently were considering investing in the area’s mining properties.

It was pretty heady stuff for a mountain located basically in the middle of nowhere, 40 kilometres southwest of Penticton, and only accessible by steep, unpaved mountain roads.

Being the scene of some major economic activity, the mines on the mountain also attracted a popular sporting event of the day, a bare-knuckle fist fight, in April of 1934.

In the days long before Penticton’s South Okanagan Events Centre, entertainment appeared wherever a likely audience might find itself. Orofino Mountain was bustling with activity, and entertainment starved miners who spent most of their time on the mountain in bunkhouses rather than make the rather difficult trek to Penticton were a more or less captive audience for the promotion of a bare-knuckle boxing match, a popular sport at the time.

Two pugilists duked it out at the burgeoning mining camp, staging an open air series of rounds on a makeshift ring, “under the pine trees, in the great fresh air, just after the sun had sunk beneath the hills,” as a Penticton newspaper described.

By the end of the fight, the two men were "covered in blood and gore,” the newspaper reported, the referee looking even worse than the combatants because he was covered in their blood.

More than 70 spectators, including around 25 from Penticton who came out expressly for the fight were on hand to watch the spectacle.

Today, it’s hard to believe the mountain ever elicited that much importance. Some secondary gravel roads traverse the area, which are used by local recreationists for all terrain or 4x4 activities, but other than that, mother nature has largely taken over again.

An abandoned portal and some concrete foundations that could easily be ignored by the passerby are about all there is to be seen in the overgrowth of the intervening 80 plus years.

Today, very little remains of the two mines on Orofino Mountain.

Orofino Mountain is located west of Oliver and east of Keremeos.
Orofino Mountain is located west of Oliver and east of Keremeos.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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