SOUTH OKANAGAN HISTORY: The wintery death of Oliver pioneer Jim Madden - InfoNews

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SOUTH OKANAGAN HISTORY: The wintery death of Oliver pioneer Jim Madden

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
December 05, 2017 - 8:30 PM

OLIVER - A pioneer resident of the Oliver area who once made his living cutting wood, ironically died a lonely, cold death without it.

This is another installment of bizarre but rich tales as part of our ongoing look at the stories of South Okanagan History. 

In the hills west of Oliver his name lives on in the name of a popular fishing lake.

Madden Lake is named after Jim Madden, an early settler to the area who ran a sawmill on the lake after being asked by his brother, Arthur Madden, for help in providing lumber to supply a building boom in Fairview, the former mining town located west of Oliver.

Jim Madden arrived in the South Okanagan with a small herd of cattle from Quilchena on Nicola Lake in the late 1800s.

According to Russ Overton’s 2009 story in Okanagan History’s 73rd annual report, his parents knew Madden, who was known to be a generally happy, but simple-minded man.

Jim continued to live in the Madden Lake area even after the mill ceased to be profitable around 1922, following the establishment of a new sawmill by the Okanagan River in Oliver.

By then settlement was establishing itself off the bench lands where Fairview had been built, down to the valley bottom where the town site of Oliver had been laid out by then B.C. Premier John Oliver as part of a soldier’s settlement project.

As Madden aged he had become somewhat reclusive, seldom changing his clothes or getting a haircut. He continued to spend winters at his cabin at Madden Lake, even though he was being encouraged by those who knew him to come down from the hills, at least for the winter.

One harsh winter, with a higher than normal amount of snow on the ground, Overton’s father was making a trip to Fairview when he noticed there were no tracks leading down the road to Madden’s.

He returned home to get his horse and went cross-country to reach Madden’s cabin. As he approached, he noticed there was no smoke coming from the chimney and the front door was wide open.

He looked inside to find Madden curled up on the floor, frozen.

Overton’s father fed the animals and went to Oliver to inform the police.

Investigation revealed Madden had run out of firewood. It appeared he had been in the bush with his sleigh when he froze his foot. He managed to make it back to the cabin, but gangrene had set in, and that was the end of Tom Madden.

Madden Lake is one of three popular fly fishing lakes located 11 kilometres west of Oliver. Along with Ripley and Burnell Lakes, the area is also popular with campers as a number of recreational sites are also located there.


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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